This past weekend I spoke at The Women’s Annual Tea at our daughter’s church in San Diego. That probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but to get in front of a group
of people and speak is a huge deal to me.
I grew up painfully shy, which is probably why I left unsaid things I should have spoken to special people in my life. When I married my husband forty-three years ago I stood in a position so all twenty-eight guests in attendance could not see the side of my face as I spoke my vows. My husband used to introduce me as his wife who couldn’t lead in silent prayer.
I always said no to anything that required speaking in front of people. When our neighbor asked me to talk to her kindergarten class about taking good care of their teeth I sent my husband (who is a dentist) instead. It was only when I donned a Toothfairy costume (and could speak as her) that I was finally able to go into pre-school and kindergarten classes with a presentation that could help the children learn proper tooth brushing technique and help children eliminate the fear of dentistry.
So true to form, when a woman from our church called one year and asked if Les and I would MC the Pastoral Celebration Sunday I said, “Les would be happy to do it, but I don’t do public speaking.” She asked me to just pray about it and get back to her. I couldn’t tell her I refused to pray, but I knew I’d be calling her back and telling her the answer was still no.
That afternoon I took my usual walk in our neighborhood. I passed an apple tree that I had never seen before. There was a spindly little apple tree with branches barely able to hold an apple, but it was baring twelve apples in its twiggyness. It was as if The Lord was saying to me, “You can bare fruit in your twiggyness as well Linda, if you just trust Me.” I could relate to Moses in his fear and doubt as he responded to God’s call with, “Oh, Lord, please not me. I can’t speak very well! Can’t you get someone else for the job?” But, I was aware that his response did not please The Lord, so I knew I had to say yes. The entire next week was filled with fear of the coming Sunday’s assignment. Not what you want your dental hygienist thinking about as she’s working in your mouth with sharp instruments! My husband and I had signed up for a weekend retreat, which involved homework assignments and attending an evening session at an L.A. church before the retreat date. That Friday night was the scheduled session. The speaker asked, “What is keeping you from being all you can be for The Lord?” Then his power point (actually at that time I’m sure was a slide) came up with a list of words. My eyes went directly to the word “fear”. Yes, fear had been keeping me from saying yes to God with anything that had to do with talking in front of people. So I went home and spent the entire Saturday praying against fear. Sunday morning came and I got up to the pulpit and spoke without the usual pounding of my heart and quivering of my speech and honored all the pastoral staff in a manner that was pleasing to The Lord. A few people (who didn’t know the real me) came up to me afterwards and said, “You must do a lot of speaking!” Actually, no, this was the first time I had responded in faith to God’s call. Moses had a burning bush; I had an apple tree. The Lord doesn’t always speak to us the same. But He says in John 10:4, “My sheep know my voice”, so when I hear Him speak I want to respond.
Public speaking is still very difficult for me because I’m still basically shy, but when God calls I no longer say no out of fear. I pray about it, and if I feel it is what He is asking, then I say yes and trust that when He calls, He equips.
Have you noticed that The Lord doesn’t always call us to do things in our strength? Instead, He often calls us to do things in our weakness, because it is there that we learn to trust Him.
When our daughter called and asked if I’d be the speaker for their tea, there was a long pause on my end of the line. I asked her if she remembered what happened to me the last time I spoke at a Women’s Tea. I refreshed her memory that one thing that goes with this white hair of mine is that often I’ll be in the middle of a sentence and forget what I’m talking about (or as our son knows very well, I’ll forget that I’ve already said it). That happened a year and a half ago when I spoke at a friend’s church. In the middle of talking to the dear women I completely forgot where I was going or where I had been, and there was a long, painful pause before I could get my thoughts together. I’ve had a recurrent nightmare through the years that I’m in front of a group of people and have absolutely nothing to say. My nightmare came true that day! Our daughter’s response to me was, “Mama, get back on the horse.” So I agreed to pray about it as I drove to the Bay Area to spend time with my brother. Long story short, The Lord made it clear I was to say yes, which I did, and He carried me through.
I’ll share what I spoke on at the Tea in my next blog.
Keep your eyes open for burning bushes and apple trees.