It was one of those awkward moments after a Sunday morning service when a visiting family looks at you and asks if you remember them… Oops.
My mind raced, thinking the faces looked familiar, but I couldn’t place them. After an apologetic wince, I asked for a hint, and then it all came together: he was a former coworker/boss, and she was my middle school speech teacher!
This would probably be a fun moment of reminiscing for anyone, but you have to understand the background here.
As a pastor, I have been speaking publicly and regularly since 1991, but I wasn’t born this way. I am a true introvert, not just self-diagnosed, but testing that way time and again.
I, like others, grew up with a fear of being a public spectacle and having to speak. That’s why the eighth grade was rough when I got bumped out of a physical education class because of an injury and put into the only class left with space that year… Speech and Debate.
I thought I was going to die.
Apparently my self-predicted doom was obvious, but that speech teacher looked at me with compassion and promised me I would live. She permitted me to start slowly but challenged me to move forward. She held the bar high, but as much as any teacher could also held my hand while getting over the bar.
Her husband was a communication professional working as a radio personality for a local station, and he agreed to meet me. Before too long, I had a part-time job working in the same studio.
Speeches, dramatic readings, a spot in the school play, forensic competitions, regional debate finals, spinning records, and reading the weather on a 100,000 Watt radio station… my world had changed!
Now I look back at nearly 30 years of ministry with countless presentations, thousands of sermons, and a life lived ‘upfront.’ I could not be more thankful for that silent cheerleader I called Mrs. O’Connor in the eighth grade.
Many of us today are afraid to do, speak and step into the spotlight. Not always because we’re introverts, or fearful of public speaking, but because we live in such a divisive, hostile, and threatening world.
For those of us who are called believers, we sometimes feel incredibly alone, and even though we know we have the Good News of Jesus Christ to share, it is so intimidating to use your voice in this world.
In those moments, I remember the Apostle Paul, who everyone says was so bold he would charge hell with a water pistol.
I don’t think so.
Several times we see the Lord encouraging him. For example, Acts 18:
“9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’ ”
It must’ve been incredibly encouraging to know that he was not alone, that there were allies about him of which he was unaware.
The story is the same for us today! We are part of the world-wide, Body of Christ, and we need to take courage that God has been, is, and will be doing more than we ever knew.
Stand up, speak up, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent’!
Seeing my speech teacher after service that day was a reminder that there are those rooting for you, on your side.
She said, “You’re not that scared kid anymore, A+!”
It made my day… now you go and do the same.
You are not alone.