My Testimony

Dowd Simpson

26 Aug, 2015

​Today I want to share my testimony with you. My testimony is the story of how God called me to Him, who I was before, and who I am becoming after.

I want to first identify who I believe to be God. I believe Him to be the Creator of the universe. He spoke everything into being. All things were made through Him, and by Him, and not one thing came into being without Him. He was, He is and He always will be. He has no beginning and no end. 

I believe Him to be a triune God, meaning that He is one God with three parts. He is God the Father, He is God the Son, and He is God the Holy Spirit. 

I also believe Him to be the ultimate Authority, over not just my individual, minute life, but the ultimate Authority over everything, from the grand scheme of things to the tiniest itty bittiest little detail. Everything. I believe Him to be so big that He holds the waters of the world in the palm of His hand, yet so personal that He knows the exact number of hairs on my head. 

I believe that this God has chosen to communicate and commune with people and I believe His primary way of communicating and communing with us is through the life, death and resurrection of His Son (who is a part of the triune God), Jesus Christ and His Spirit (also a part of the triune God). That this God would choose to not only acknowledge my existence but desire to know me is beyond the capacity for my brain to comprehend, but I am blown away by this truth. 

Now I claim this as truth because I also believe that this God wrote a letter to me, and to you, and that this letter is called the Bible. I believe the Bible is the spoken divine word of God, written by man. I believe it is a story, a story with good guys and bad guys, the Good Guy and the Bad Guy, a story of judgement and forgiveness, a story of love and sacrifice, life and death, but ultimately, the greatest, truest, rawest, most authentic, most vulnerable, most genuine, most beautiful, most incredible love story ever told. Ever. And it never gets old.

So that’s who I believe God to be. When I say God, that’s who I am referring to. 

Now, as I said earlier, my testimony is the story of how God called me to Himself, specifically who I was before and who I am becoming now. The through line of my testimony is about my constant search for approval and love. The before is about how I tried to find this love…I tried to be good enough… to be good enough to be loved…by my family and my friends…to be good enough ultimately to win God’s love. The after is the realization that I can’t be good enough.

How do I define myself? Because the way I define my identity ultimately shapes the course of my life and how that journey is experienced and to what purpose. So where is it that I place my worth? Is my worth based on my performance? Is my worth based on my appearance? Is my worth based on how many people like me? Is my worth based on all the things I accomplish?

If I am worthy, then… Then what? If I am worthy then I am important? If I am worthy then I am enough? Then I am not invisible? Then I haven't been forgotten? At the root of all of these I believe is a deep deep desire to be loved. If I am worthy then I am loved. So I do things in order to be loved, like perform, change our appearance, buy a new house, get more things, the list can go on and on. Because I think that these things will make me happy and in turn make me feel loved. Now I am not saying that these things in and of themselves are bad. What I am saying is that the motivation for these actions can come from a broken place. That broken place is a lie. It’s is a lie that usually goes back to when you (collectively) were younger and you were hurt, really badly. And in that moment of hurt you chose to believe something about yourself, a lie, THE lie of all lies, that you are not loved, and that you must do something or be something in order to be loved. In this broken place, those things that you do then define who you are. This is what I believe to be your broken identity. It is an identity that says you are loved only if you are worthy of love, and you are worthy of love only if you…fill in the blank (get this job, have kids, are prettier, had a better job, etc).

So here’s me: I believe the lie that I am not loved. Therefore, in order to be worthy of love, I perform. My worth is then defined by my performance. The better I perform, the more I am loved. My broken identity is performance based living because I think that performing would give me love and happiness. Does that make sense?

Another example might be, I believe the lie that I am not loved. Therefore, in order to be worthy of love, I need to be more successful. Or in order to be worthy of love, I need to look a certain way.

All of this, my lie, ties into my testimony...

I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were Christians, I went to church, I could recite the Lord’s Prayer, I lived in the south, therefore I thought I was a Christian. Aren’t all people who live in the south Christians? I was nice, for the most part. I didn’t steal. I certainly didn’t murder anyone. I might have gossiped here and there, but who doesn’t? Besides I thought we needed to “pray for her.”

What I thought it meant to be a Christian was to go to church. It was more of a check it off the list sort of deal. I pretty much live the way I wanted to, with a moral compass of what I thought was right or wrong.

So here I am in high school, this “Christian” girl, walking around with the lie that I am not loved. So in order to be worthy of love, I perform as well as try to be “perfect.” The better I perform, the more I am loved. That’s what I believe and I define myself (“brokenly”) on how well I perform. Of course I don’t know I am broke at the time. I believed the lie that if I perform well, then I will be loved. And these lies are sneaky because, in the fallen world that we live in, aspects of this lie prove to be true. Right? Take what my husband does for a living for example. He performs. He plays golf. And the better he plays, the more attention he gets, the more the world loves him. But I came to find out that this “love” I was seeking through performance wasn’t real love at all and whatever it was never left me satisfied. It was never enough. I always wanted more.

So in high school, I strove really hard for straight A’s (because achieving straight A’s gained me approval from my parents). But I also wanted to be liked by the “cool” crowd so when there was a party, I went, and I drank because that’s what they were doing, and I especially drank when guys were around because I really wanted them to like me. Then come Sunday, I was at church. I needed people to approve of me. I needed people to like me. I needed people to love me and just one wasn’t enough. This transcended to such a greater level. If I just did enough than ultimately God would love me, right? Not just my parents and my friends and myself, but God would also love me.

This same sort of behavior carried over into college. I went to Wake Forest University, a school that breeds type A personalities, performance based living and perfectionism. I joined a sorority because that’s what everyone else did. I hung out at fraternities, flirted with guys and drank too much. I worked really hard during the week and partied even harder during the weekend. I tell people I drank enough my freshman year of college to last me the rest of my life. I have too many nights I can’t remember and too many attempts to feel loved that just left me feeling empty.

It was my sophomore year that I met Webb. I actually met his dad first. I was at a pre-party for the Raleigh Debutant Ball for my best friend Maggie. Maggie, my sweet best friend, told me at the end of our freshman year that my future husband was coming to Wake next year. I thought she was crazy. Future husband? Please! I was so not that girl that thought about getting married or dreamed of my wedding day since I was little. I wanted to move to LA and become an actress. My dream of becoming an actress at that time was motivated from the lie that if people approved of me then they loved me, and the more people that approved of me, then that must mean that the more I was loved. However, the love the world gives is fickle. It’s here today and gone tomorrow. These little events in my life further perpetuated the lie that if I could just be better, perform more, be good enough, then I could get more people, or a different group of people, to approve of me and love me. 

So anyway, back to Webb. At this Raleigh Deb party I met Sam Simpson. He was a flirt. He called me over and told me he would pay me $100 if I would take out his son next year a Wake so that he could be seen around campus with an older girl and that would make him look cool. I laughed and said if he’s half as cute as you I will do it for free. 

Come the first week of school, Maggie asked if I wanted to come with her to see Webb. I said sure. I walked in, said hi, and then immediately started going through all of his stuff. I just wanted to mess with him. One of the things he had in his drawers were those white life saver mints. I asked if I could have one. Sweet, thoughtful guy that he was, Webb came to a show I was performing in that next week and gave me a handful of those mints as a “good luck”. 

He was different than anyone I had ever met before. He was dorky but confident in his dorkiness. He wasn’t trying to be anything other than who he was, and he also held his cards close to his chest. Come to find out later, he was getting sideline advice from his dad. Before he would call me or email me he ran the play by play by his dad first. Well his dad gave him some good advice because I fell really hard, really fast and we started dating around Christmas time. We were so in love, or in lust would be more appropriate. We spent every moment together. We would go to lunch together, to the movies, to church together. If he wasn’t on the course and I wasn’t in the theatre, we were together. We started making compromises physically and pushing our boundaries until it got to the place where the line of my “Christian girl moral compass” was crossed and what was right and what was wrong was blurry.

By the time it was my senior year, I was really unhappy. I cried all the time. Webb would talk about marriage and I would freak out. I hated the thought of it but I loved him. That doesn’t make sense, but it was true. Why was I so confused?! I had made all these choices that I hoped would make me happy and gain me approval and love, but they had ultimately left me feeling really really empty. Why wasn’t my performance based living giving me that happiness and love that I thought they would give me? And when I say love here, I might be confusing. Because clearly I had love. Someone approved of me and loved me. Webb. But obviously something was wrong, because it wasn’t enough. His love wasn’t enough. And if at the time, I had his love and the love of all of my adoring fans from my successful movie career, I know that wouldn’t have been enough either. Why? Because Webb’s love (and my hypothetical fan club’s love) wouldn’t gain me the approval and that ultimate loveI that I really need and really wanted, God’s.

After graduating, I moved to Atlanta to work for a Christian film production company that wrote screenplays for movies from a faith-based perspective. We would have Bible studies every Monday. We were reading through the book of John and I couldn’t get past a verse in the first chapter. It was John 1:23, “I am the voice of the one calling in the desert, Make straight the way for the Lord.” It was the “Make straight the way for the Lord” part that struck me so hard. How could I make straight the way for the Lord when my own path wasn’t straight? I felt lost. At this point in my life I thought that the reason I was so unhappy was because of my circumstances. If I just had a different group of friends, if I lived in a different city, if I could just do more, if I changed this or that, then I would be happy. I went into my office after the Bible study and was just sobbing. My boss came in and said he thought he knew what was wrong, why I was so unhappy. I thought, great! Fix me! Tell me the secret to happiness. He said I think you are unhappy because you are in rebellion against God. You are making choices that are not in line with what He says will bring you joy and happiness. He said specifically that I was living in sexual sin with Webb. I had never told him that Webb and I were sleeping together. It was another choice I had made to feel loved.

In my life up to this point, I had made choices in attempt to find love and feel fulfilled. Well clearly all of that wasn’t working. Instead of feeling loved and fulfilled, I was exhausted and I felt really insecure. Pursuing straight A’s didn’t fulfill, being a part of the “cool” crowd didn’t fulfill. Chasing a career didn’t fulfill. Having sex with Webb didn’t fulfill. I thought that all of these things would make me feel loved. I was so broken. I couldn't perform enough to make enough people love me and enough people loving me wouldn't make God love me. So I can’t get God’s love by anything I do. Now what?!

Remember at the beginning of this post when I said who I believe God to be and one of the things I said is that He is the Author of the Bible. Well, the Bible is about how God created us to be in communion with Him and how we failed Him, because we didn’t obey Him (but God knew this was true all along, He knew this was going to be the case, that we wouldn't be able to obey Him perfectly. So He created us, knowing we would fail, all to show us how much He loves us by coming after us anyway). In His infinite insurmountable unfathomable love, God looked upon us in our helpless state drowning under the weight of our self-righteous pride and bad decisions, desperate attempts to fill the hole and emptiness in our life, and our ceaseless striving for meaning and identity, anxiously clinging to the hope of conquering our own inconsequentiality and insignificance…He saw us. He is the God that sees. And He rescued us. But at a tremendous price. Because He is the God that He is: perfect, holy and righteous, the only way we could be in a relationship with something that perfect is to be that perfect ourselves. That means not one oops, not one blemish, not one stain, not one mean word, not one thoughtless action. Perfection. Absolute perfection. This isn’t about a scale measuring morality. Oh, I’m not as bad as Hitler so I’m good, right? No. Because if that were the case, then it comes down to what’s good enough. What is good enough? Well, there’s nothing that’s good enough. The Bible says that all have sinned, all have fallen short of the expectations of God. Except one. God Himself. God sent us a Savior. A rescuer. A redeemer. How kind, how gracious, how loving. But a God who is this kind, this gracious and this loving, must also be a God who is just, righteous and lawful. Because if He is who I have said He is, a God who holds the oceans in the palm of his hand and knows the number of hairs on my head and is all powerful and in control of everything from war to slavery from life to death, then He must be a just God as well. And justice requires payment for wrongdoings and we have wronged Him because we did not obey Him or live the perfect way He asked us to. Yet He still wants us to be reconciled to Him, to be in relationship with Him, to know Him as He so intimately knows us. But how? What price must we pay in order to live in communion with God? So that Savior I just mentioned, he becomes our atonement, our path for reconciliation, our sacrifice to a holy and just God. God Himself, sent His Son, Jesus, to live the perfect life we could not live, then willingly died, was killed I should say by the very ones he came to save, in order to be that perfect sacrifice for all of our wrongs, past, present and future.

This is grace. Amazing grace. Have you ever received a present from someone that you didn’t expect or deserve but that person just wanted to show you that they loved you and thought about you and cared for you? Yea, grace is kind of like that, multiplied by a gazillion bazillion.

For the first time l I realized the truth that there was nothing I could do to be worthy of God’s love. No matter how hard I performed or achieved, no matter how hard I tried, the truth was and is that I have sin in my life, that I am a sinner. I had sinned against a holy and perfect God. I felt awful. But the truth is, Jesus lived the perfect life that I could not live, blameless and without sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.” The punishment has been made for all my sin, both past, present and future. He took the punishment deserved for me, and for you, in hopes that we would know Him. He willingly went to the cross to die for people who did not love Him, who hated Him. What kind of love is that?! That someone would die for me when I didn't love Him?! It was at this moment in my life, when I was in Atlanta, that I met Jesus, that I knew Him for the first time. All along I had thought I was a Christian, but I wasn’t, because I didn’t know Jesus. When thinking back about it, I must’ve heard about him in church, but it was as if my eyes and ears had been opened and I was hearing this good news of redemption for the first time ever. God loves me! God loves ME! Hooray! Isn’t that what I had been wanting all along?! God loves me so much He gave His own son for me. I decided I wanted to know more of this God who sacrificed himself for me. I decided to follow Him and trust my life in His hands rather than running the exhausting race of achieving and performing. Since then, my life has been different. It has not been easy. It has been different. I had a friend ask me once, if I just trusted Jesus and that was it. No. It is a daily battle. It is a daily battle of choosing to walk in a way that is pleasing to the Lord in accordance to what He wants for us in the Bible. It is a daily battle of choosing life over death, of choosing Jesus over self, of prayer, of studying the Word, of walking in community, of not choosing to be selfish and prideful, but relying on the Holy Spirit for guidance and transformation. But it is worth it! Life on this side of knowing Jesus, on this side of my testimony, is so much richer than life before.

So, you might be wondering what happened with me and Webb. Well…after making this decision, I immediately got on a plane, flew to Wake Forest, and broke up with him. I told him I wanted to chase after the Lord and that I wanted Jesus to be first in my life, without a close second, third or forth. For the first time I wanted to pursue Him wholeheartedly. I told Webb that we were over, that he was free to date whomever he pleased, and not to put a hope in us getting back together. My hope was now in the Lord and whatever He had for me was far greater than I could ever think or imagine. I wanted what He had for my life rather than what I thought might be best. I told him that I wanted to know that my God was big enough to change me. And He proved to be so big! He surrounded me with girl friends who love Him and loved me in spite of my flaws, who held me accountable and spurred me on in my relationship with God. He brought me to an amazing church that faithfully preached the Word of God and allowed me to use my love of acting in a way that glorified His name in the children’s program at the church. I also dated and dated guys who loved Him. And then in God’s undeserved grace and mercy and kindness, He brought Webb back in my life again over a year later in the month of December. I guess Webb had heard I was dating again and wanted to take me out. I felt a peace from the Lord so I said yes. It was so awkward because I was staying with my parents that weekend in Charlotte and I am the oldest of five, so all of my siblings were in town for the Christmas holiday, also staying at their house. So Webb comes to pick me up and all of my family is in the kitchen waiting for this interaction. As I come down the stairs they all look at Webb’s reaction and then at my reaction and then back to Webb and then back to me. It was uncomfortable. But needless to say they were all excited about the possibility of us getting back together. Well at dinner I quickly discovered Webb was the same guy I fell in love with my sophomore year ay Wake but he was different. He was more mature and he had a real, authentic and mature relationship with the Lord. During that time apart, the Lord had brought men into his life to walk along side him and teach him what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus. He was respectful and wanted to pursue me and lead me, yet still dorky and goofy. When you break up with someone and then go on a date again with that person, it’s either going to be an obvious no or an obvious yes and in our case it was a yes. He took me out on a Thursday and that weekend I was in Raleigh visiting his family. Five months in we called our pastor and asked him to marry us, before Webb had asked my dad permission, as if he would've minded?! Six months after that we were married. Three months after that we were pregnant, unintentionally and after celebrating our first anniversary, we brought home our first child, James. Then the next year Willow and the next year Winnie and this year we are having twins. Just kidding :) 

Now back to one of the questions proposed at the very beginning. The question was, what makes us worthy? Our performance? Our achievements? Our friends? Our things? What makes us worthy of being loved by God? Nothing, absolutely nothing makes us worthy of being loved by God. The only reason we are loved by God is not because of anything we do, but because of what Jesus did for us. It is at the foot of the cross, seeing our bleeding Savior with our sins holding Him there that we find true love.

So, your broken identity says that you are loved only if you are worthy of love, and you are worthy of love only if you…fill in the blank (get this job, have kids, are prettier, win more tournaments, etc). In my broken identity (I am worthy of love only if I perform better), I lived my life chasing “happiness” through performance. I believed that I wasn’t loved by my parents, so I strove for attention through performing and trying to be perfect. I believed that I wasn’t loved by my friends, so I tried to be cooler and more a part of the “in” crowd by drinking and gossiping. I believed that I wasn’t loved by my boyfriend, so I went further and further with him in hopes that he would love me. I believed that I wasn’t loved by society, so I strove to be skinnier and prettier. I believed this lie. I operated from a broken identity of self worth defined by my performance.

But now, on this side of my testimony, I can live in a healthy identity rooted in Jesus and my worth does not have to be defined by my performance, or my appearance or my achievements, but my worth is defined by Jesus. There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more or less. Oh what a relief! Isn’t that a relief? We don’t have to do anything! Any good you see in my life is because of Him. It is Jesus who lives in me, working in me, producing fruit that is good. There is certainly bad fruit too. I do give into my selfish sinful self. I fall and fail. That is why it is a battle, and a daily battle. But thankful that God’s grace and mercy never runs out and it is new every day.

Do you chose to believe that you can be loved and feel fulfilled if you just performed better, or looked a certain way, or had this house, or these friends, or this husband? Do you believe that that would make you happy? Would make you loved? OR Do you chose Jesus? Do you choose to believe that you are loved, that you are cherished, that you are worth something. That you are loved by the King of Heaven and Earth, loved by the Savior of the world, loved by Jesus Christ?! Do you believe that your worth is defined by something you do OR that your worth is defined by what Christ did.