Fainting For God
- Monday, July 26, 2004
One of my greatest fears as a public speaker is that I will get up in front of the people and run out of things to say. My friends and family have all assured me this is about as likely to happen as Ashley to stop loving horses. They seem to think I have the gift of gab in any kind of situation. I thought their encouragement had helped me conquer my fear.
However, my fear revisited me at my most recent homeschool conference. My first three talks went off without a hitch, but as I prepared to give my fourth speech, I was gripped with the old familiar fear. I had five points neatly outlined using the acronym HEART. Each point had a corresponding story, scripture references, and practical application. Five points easily turn into an hour of speaking.
As I was eating lunch, prior to giving my talk, I suddenly felt sick. I wasn't sure if it was a physical sick or an emotional sick. I wanted to flee. My mind began coming up with all kinds of reasons why I couldn't give my next speech.
The first point of my talk was H- Honesty. The honesty I was to talk about was being honest with God particularly in the area of prayer. How can we pray effectively if we put on a mask? A woman who had been sitting next to me at lunch followed me out of the room and asked an innocent question, "How are you doing Terri?"
My mind began reeling. I can't be honest with this person. Just say fine. I thought as my mouth began sharing with her how stressed and nervous I felt. I told her that my greatest desire was that God could use my mouth to say His words, but that I felt at the moment I was in His way. How do I know when I stand in front of a group of people that the words I am speaking are the words that God would have me to say? I wondered. Right then, in front of everyone, she offered a prayer to God on my behalf. I was indeed honored and awed by her.
As I walked to the classroom, several people I knew seemed to know something was wrong with me. I'm certain many of them offered up their own prayers. As soon as I walked into the classroom, I was suddenly struck with a wave of heat and nausea. The nausea increased as I looked into my basket of materials without finding my notes. Quickly I ran down the stairs and to my booth. Searching frantically for my notebook, my palms once again began to sweat. God! I cried. You're going to have to take me out of the picture. I'm going to fail you! I think I secretly hoped I would lose my lunch so I could have a concrete reason to not do the workshop.
My dear friend, who was at my booth when I was searching frantically for my notes, later told me she had not in all her years of traveling with me, seen me like that.
The search for notes was unproductive and I was forced to return to the classroom with only a moment to spare. As I looked into my basket once again, there were my notes. Whew! At least I wouldn't have to totally rely on my memory. Now this is a bit strange as well since I rarely use notes during my workshops. Here I was, placing my faith in my notes, not in my God.
I looked at my notes and suddenly they didn't make any sense to me. My mind was whirling and there wasn't anything coming out of my mouth. I opened the workshop up with prayer. As I forced tears to not flow from my eyes, I begged God to take over for me. I prayed out loud, but not all of my prayer was spoken. Lord, I think you made a mistake asking me to do this workshop.
As I looked around the room, I saw faces that were uninterested and bored. They almost seemed to be pleading with me to end their torment of a hot room listening to a boring instructor. I also wanted to end their torment.
I had gone through the first four points, glanced at the clock and saw there were yet thirty minutes remaining. Under normal circumstances I could turn my final point into a thirty-minute enjoyable talk, but this was not a normal circumstance. I constantly felt that I was in God's way. But how could I get out of his way?
I suddenly felt like I was going to faint. If I didn't take action, there would be a group of women watching me lying on the ground in front of them. An idea suddenly came to me. I asked the women to gather into small groups and pray for their children and for each other. I knew this was the right course of action, but kept talking to them. Again I requested they turn their chairs. And again, I tried to take over and regain my talk. Finally I knew that I had to get out of the way so God could minister to them in prayer.
Twenty minutes of prayer passed. The entire time I felt like such a failure. I knew that as soon as I could escape the room, I would have to find a place to go so I could cry at my own failing.
I left the room and hid in a corner. I was unable to allow the tears to flow, but was crying inside. In my head I saw my award, "Favorite Home School Speaker of the Year" that The Old Schoolhouse Magazine had bestowed upon me. I knew the last thing I deserved at that moment was the award.
I wanted to apologize to the board that had asked me to come speak. I ventured over to their table. One of the board members said to me, "So how was your last talk?" I rolled my eyes and said, "Oh...it was so bad."
She said to me, "That's strange to hear, I just had someone come up and tell me it was the best workshop she had ever attended."
I couldn't believe it! God had answered my prayer by taking me out of the picture so that He could take over.
The whole thing reminds me of Exodus 33:12-14.
"Then Moses said to the LORD, "See, You say to me, 'Bring up this people. But you have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, 'I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.' "Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people. And He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
Often I see a failing of mine, and am unable to see what God is doing in it. I praise God that he allowed me a glimpse into what he can do when I get myself out of the way. Hopefully the next time, I will be able to rest knowing that His Presence goes with me.
In addition to devoting herself to her husband and the eight children she home schools, Terri also enjoys writing and speaking to offer encouragement to women in an effervescent, humorous way. Visit her Web site at www.ignitethefire.com or e-mail her at email@example.com.
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