Peace Like A River
WHEN I WAS A YOUNG BOY
When I was in Grade 6 my teacher asked the entire class if anyone wanted to participate in a public speaking event being held at the school. Whomever participated would be required to research, memorize and recite their findings for the entire student body. Unsurprisingly no one volunteered.
For whatever reason, myself and my friend were voluntold that we would be the lucky participants. I can still recall that odd mixture of dread coupled with the collective sigh of relief that permeated throughout the classroom.
I prepared; I researched; I memorized; I became as a deer in the headlights.
When it was my time to address the student body, I opened my mouth and not a single word came out. I couldn’t remember my speech. And so, I walked off stage utterly and completely embarrassed and destroyed.
I carried that painful memory with me for the better part of my life. In fact, it’s still with me. Over the years I had countless opportunities to speak in public – whether at church or in the corporate world or in familial settings – and I made every excuse under the sun to not do so (all because of that fateful day in Grade 6).
In my last blog post, I mentioned how Moses is an inspiration to me. When I read the Exodus account, particularly Moses interaction with God at the burning bush, I can’t help but feel very relational with him.
In Exodus 4:10-14 we read that:
10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
11 The Lordsaid to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you.15 You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.
Not only did Moses doubt his calling and struggled with faith and the path that the Lord had put him on, he was tongue-tied, slow of speech, and had a hard time formulating thought into words.
Or, maybe, he was just making excuses. Don’t we all though? Don’t we all tend to make excuses if the Lord asks us to do something difficult or uncomfortable?
Despite his lack of faith and uncertainty in his ability to speak, God extends his mercy and grace and, albeit – in a passionate exchange – God reaffirms to Moses that it will be He who helps them to speak and it will be He who teaches them what to do.
ONE SMALL STEP
This past Sunday I preached my first sermon, ever. In the lead up my mind was plagued by that single memory from Grade 6. Rest assured, I tried to make up excuses to not preach; after all, I believe I am slow of speech and tongue.
I said ‘enough.’
I was given ample time to prepare my sermon and, truth be told, this was a blessing in disguise. There’s no shortage of days throughout my time of sermon prep wherein I battled with doubt and anxiety about preaching and I simply had to press through it. I was constantly reminding myself of God’s goodness and grace and how the previous seven years in Australia had prepared me for the path ahead. As Mary “treasured all these things up in her heart” (Luke 2:19) so to did I have to recall and remind myself of all the things that God had done to get me to this point.
And so, I prepared my sermon, I practiced, I thought up illustrations, I asked for feedback, I went through four drafts and then I left it with the Lord.
Side note: As I walked towards the pulpit I had The Final Countdownby Europe playing through my head. It was awesome.
……do do do do…..do do do do do….do do do do….do do do do do do do
PEACE LIKE A RIVER
If there’s one memory, however, that I will always carry with me from my first-time preaching is this: peace. At the time of me writing this, it’s now five days on from that Sunday and I’m still overcome with the sense of peace that I had while in the pulpit. There’s only one other public speaking occasion wherein I felt that same peace: my public testimony and baptism. Every other instance was plagued with anxiety and nervousness.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Looking back now, what I had – I believe – was nothing short of the supernatural peace that Jesus promised. Everything in my body should have been screaming “DO NOT WANT!” but there I was eager…excited…and wanting to get into that pulpit. I don’t say that to boast.
I say it because I was also reminded of another promise that Jesus gave us:
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:20)
Will I ever again be struck with anxiety and nervousness in the face of preaching or public speaking? Maybe. But now I have memories of how the Lord provides in our time of need.
My friends, is God calling you to do something for Him that’s difficult or uncomfortable? Don’t bow down to the lie that you can’t or aren’t equipped or aren’t worthy – after all, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11)
May the God who holds the universe and, indeed, our lives in the palm of His hand bless you and keep you and guide you down paths of righteousness for His name sake.