Yesterday, I listened to a man give a testimony in church. The Rector had said this would be one of three 5 minutes personal expressions of faith. Well, five minutes was not enough for the young man. Thanks for that.

He was articulate and clear. He talked about having graduated from high school and going to college for a year. He also touched on having been sent to private school. Those were more like asides.

His life had been beset by ‘distractions’ and some bad connections, which resulted in his having faced five criminal charges. He pleaded guilty to each in order to speed up the process. He’d been in jail twice: once in minimum security, once in maximum. Prison taught him lessons, including the need to step away from some people.

One of his distractions had been illegal drugs. He said he was done with those. He didn’t describe his crimes, but suggested violence was involved. He hinted at self defence, at least once.

He was funny and self-deprecating, saying he shunned the spotlight. But, he was in its full glare for about 15 minutes.

He could have begun with an excuse about not being good at public speaking. It would have been a lie. He captured his fall well. But, his story was meant to be about how his faith got him to the better path again.

I liked him for more than what he said.

In church, certain people often gather attention because they don’t dress up. He’d be one. He wore a Polo shirt and pants. I often fight labels but I know many can’t or won’t and he’d be labeled. But, he was perfectly at ease, to all appearances.

Standing in front of any audience can be an ordeal. Doing it when you are exposing your weaknesses or failings takes immense courage. He didn’t look flustered. I guess he’d made peace with himself and his God.

I needed to leave church early to go to the airport. I wanted to thank him for sharing his fall and rise. I also wanted to urge him to write. His story is great to share.

Some who listened wanted him to ‘wrap it up now’.

It may be Christmas, but wrapping up things should sometimes be done slowly in case the gift is damaged. The gift of telling your story in your own way is something that makes certain people uncomfortable. Cookie cutting life is a recipe for misery. Breathe in. Speak. Breathe out. Speak again. Avoid being made breathless by others.

It’s ironic that ‘I can’t breathe’ is becoming iconic, though due to another context.

I noticed that the man never seemed to get his words stuck in his throat. I wanted to ask him how that happened. But, I didn’t get a chance. Listening to him made my throat dry.

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