I hadn’t anticipated how good it would be for me to write about what I’ve learnt in the past three years.
To recap, so far I have talked about the specific gifts God has given me, and humility. Now, for Part 3…
God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.
This has been most evident in my involvement in an annual youth event that draws a crowd of 400 or so. The great thing about this event is the number of young people who come to know Jesus as their Saviour through it – it’s been running for longer then I’ve been alive, and it is astounding how many stories come out of people first becoming Christians at this event. The not-so-great thing about it is that, as part of my job, I have to get up infront of those 400 teenagers and, pretty much, ask them for money.
Telling people that your cause is a worthy cause that they should get excited about and give to is hard enough. But remember in Part 1 of this series, where I alluded to the fact that I don’t really do public speaking? Well, what I meant was that when I first became involved in the leadership side of this ministry, I refused to talk into a microphone. Everyone else would jump up and introduce themselves, and then someone would go “…and this is Courtney” and I’d wave a little and die inside with everyone watching me.
So, the first year, no one had really mentioned it to me until the day, when someone casually said “So, are you all set to talk about the ministry you guys do and take up the offering?” ….Uh, no. I am not. I tried to be all set, I really did. But I could not do it. Thankfully my friend, Heidi, knows me so well, and she asked if I wanted her to do the talk that year. She is amazing, seriously. We decided that my goal would be to do it next year.
Well, the next year came around faster then I expected it to. It was like I blinked, and then it was time for me to get up infront of all those teenagers and speak into a microphone in front of them. I was so nervous I could barely talk beforehand (people later admitted wondering if I’d do okay and praying furiously about it). Heidi and I went over my notes and then she prayed with me right before we went into the auditorium. Then I went backstage, and I was on my own. The tech guys and the MC were all so casual about it, which I just couldn’t believe. Obviously they hadn’t seen me try to speak just 10 minutes earlier and almost burst into tears. I had 3 minutes, and they would also be playing a highlights DVD of the kids on silent behind me. When I got on stage, I could hardly see anyone, and my heart was beating so loudly that I couldn’t hear them either. I remember saying something along the lines of “You’re not going to believe it, but this event isn’t the only thing we do here” and hearing someone fake gasp, and so I fake gasped back and said “I know!” and then everyone laughed. I relaxed a little after that (because, you know, they got my joke), but every now and then I’d get a little flustered. Halfway through, I mentioned the DVD and so turned around to look at it and saw myself, and I said “Hey! That’s me!” and got distracted for a bit watching it. Then a bit later I noticed that the giant number that I’d seen earlier had said “3” but now said “0.30” and I realised that it was timing me, and I said “Oh, I think I only have 30 seconds left!” When I finished, I practically ran off stage. The speaker, who was standing back stage waiting to go on, said “Well done! And that timer thing freaks me out too.” So, I did it! And then I walked back into the audience and started to cry from relief.
The next year. Oh my goodness, you don’t even know. I was all good. This time, my slot was slightly later, and Heidi and I went up together, but were “interviewed” seperately by one of the MCs. Which meant that I was up there for longer (about 10 minutes), but at least I wasn’t alone. For the first part, while Heidi was being “interviewed” about her role within the ministry and how others could get involved, I just sat and looked pretty. I played with my hair and spun around on the chair* (yep, got distracted…), and laughed at all the jokes. When I was being “interviewed,” I got so excited about my job that I barely noticed I was speaking infront of 400 teenagers.
Because, you see, the important thing wasn’t that I was on stage, the important thing was the work God was doing, and would continue to do.
Afterwards, many of the youth leaders who had been both years encouraged me about it. But the one that sticks out to me came from the speaker for that year, who had been at the event with his youth group the year before. He came up to me and said “I want to tell you a story. Last year, a young woman got up in front of us and said ‘I hate public speaking, but please bear with me because I want to talk to you about something close to my heart’ and she did well, though she was obviously nervous. This year, a young woman got up on stage to talk about the same thing, but she spoke about it with confidence and passion.” And then, he said to me “That young woman, both times, was you. It is unbelievable how much you’ve grown.”
What was the different between those three seperate occasions? I think that God had taken me on a journey that was bigger then I’d realised. Not only had He grown me in my confidence, but He’d taught me that what I couldn’t do, He could do through me.
The first year, I had simply said “I can’t do it.” The second year, I had prayed for strength, but hadn’t really learnt how to trust Him yet. At some time between the second and third year, I think that God had taught me that He was in control, and that He wasn’t going to let me stuff it up if I stood aside and let Him do His work through me.
I may be weak in public speaking, or in many other areas. But if there is a job to be done, and God has decided that I’m the one to do it, He will use my weakness to show His strength. Hopefully, I will remember this, and continue to learn it more fully.
“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
*That rhymed. I’m a poet and I didn’t even realise ;)