This summer I preached at my church for the first time in about three-and-a-half years. That was months ago, and I’m still processing:
First, I enjoy writing. So, I enjoyed writing my message. I practiced it in front of other preachers at my church, and they made suggestions. I also had my own gut instincts. So I did something I’ve never done before—I edited, extensively. I re-wrote, and then re-wrote again, although the feedback over my practice run through was quite good. Now, as a student, I always finished writing papers the morning they were due. I planned to finish 2-3 hours before the paper was due. I’d finish. I’d nap for an hour or two, and then I’d get up and turn in said paper. I never proofread, much less edited. I knew there’d be some typos and maybe wrong words, but I also knew those mistakes would be too few to drop my grade. So, I had never really edited anything I’d written before. It was a good experience.
Second, I enjoy being on stage, but I’d forgotten that. I danced a lot as a high school student, and one of my hallmarks was a fun, energetic, sassy persona. Put me in a flapper costume and some tap shoes, and I’m good. Put me in a tutu and ask me to put on a pleasant, but neither smiling nor serious face, and I’m in trouble. So, I was terrified to approach the stage. Then I got on it. Then I spent five minutes on it, and I was having a great time.
Third, I’ve written before about how “safe” a person I am. There’s not a risk-taking bone in my body. A band of students and former students from my student ministry led worship the day I preached, and that made me proud and joyful and comfortable. They sang a song with a line, “Let’s risk the ocean; there’s only grace. Where you go we will follow; I’m on my knees. Where you go we will follow; O God, send me.” That song had become a staple on a student mission trip to Macedonia just weeks earlier. As I heard the song, I thought about the teenagers and college students who went on that trip, about the adults who led it, about the parents who nervously stayed stateside. And I thought, “If they can literally risk the ocean, then I can risk a 25-minute sermon.”
I also had a husband who told me the night before the big day, “You know this sermon more than you think you do. Deliver it. Go for the jokes; they’re funny; people will laugh. Don’t look at your notes; you don’t need them.” Going for jokes and not looking at my notes were scary ideas to me. I have to feel very safe to crack a joke; that is a vulnerable experience for me. Not looking at my notes could mean getting very off track, and that scared me.
But, I listened to my husband, and I listened to the voice telling me it wasn’t a flight over the Atlantic; it was a sermon, and it would be over in 25 minutes—for better or worse.
I went for the jokes, and they worked.
I didn’t look at my notes much, and it worked. In fact, I can still recite whole paragraphs from that sermon. My husband was right; I did know it well.
Nail #56--I'm thankful for this experience.