I’ve been doing more speaking over these last few months than I have in the past — mostly smallish events, women’s retreats and church conferences and the like around the greater Lincoln area. When I looked back at my 2015 calendar last week I realized I’d spoken at seven events this past year, which seems like a whole lot for someone who regularly tells herself that she doesn’t like public speaking.
I realized something important as I looked at the list of churches and retreats I’ve spoken at these last several months. I realized that without my even noticing it, God has been growing me, gently, softly, a little bit at a time throughout this past year.
I still don’t love to speak in front of an audience. I still get nervous. My heart still pounds, my feet still sweat, I still get breathless, I still have to apply multiple layers of high-powered deodorant in the morning and wear short sleeves, even in the dead of winter. I still have to prepare for each event weeks in advance. I still have to practice out loud, standing in my kitchen talking to myself with my dog stretched out at my feet. I still use notes when I speak, and I still like to stand behind a podium.
Yet I realized this weekend that something hardly discernible and yet at the same time hugely powerful has changed in me. I am trusting. I am trusting the process and the fact that God meets me in it every single time.
This doesn’t mean that every single speaking event I do is perfect. Not by a long shot. People in the audience still fall asleep. They check their phones and rummage through their purses in search of Lifesavers and gaze off into the middle distance, thinking about how they forgot to refill the cat dish before they left the house that morning.
Sometimes the stories I share that I expect will bring a big laugh or at least heads nodding in recognition fall flat.
Sometimes I lose my place in my notes and say “um,” and forget to turn on the clicker doo-hickey and panic a little bit when my PowerPoint slides refuse to budge.
Sometimes when I am finished at an event, I sit in my car in the parking lot, draw in a deep breath and think, “Well, I have no idea how that went.”
Yet with each subsequent event, I have leaned into the process a little more easily. I’ve become okay with the sleepers and the purse rummagers and all the little details I can’t control. I’ve come to accept the fact that I don’t know, can’t know, if what I say has resonated in any way. I’ve come to rest in the fact that God is in charge; that who listens and who thinks about their hungry cat, who stays awake and who nods off, who hears him in my words and who misses him entirely is in his realm, not mine.
I’ve come to realize that my job is to listen to God, to prepare, to apply my high-powered deodorant and to show up confident in his ability to speak through me.
Our God is such a gentle, loving, sweet God. He’s taken my hand and led me step by step through this terrifying process, one small event at a time. It’s taken me nearly a whole year to notice it, but God has quietly and steadfastly grown me in ways I didn’t even think were possible. Sometimes, it seems, you only notice how much you’ve grown when you look back and see how far you’ve come.