Lord, help me, I get so sick before speaking engagements.
There was a time when I printed out my standard material, had fun, enjoyed the crowd and the process, just told the stories, had a big time (as did everyone else), oh, and collected my check.
What would I give for it to be that way again just one time...
Now I wallow in my indecision--panic about the topics. I roll around in the muck my fear generates. I taste it on the back of my tongue. Roll it around in my mouth like bad medicine, dreading the swallow. My stomach is sour. My head aching. My nerves on edge. I smell panic on me like truth.
I avoid giving a commitment to speak until the last possible minute, allowing churches to back out on their invitation and hire someone else. I don't respond to emails in a timely manner. I let the phone go to voicemail. I keep trying to avoid, but it's always the same. No, we haven't even thought of asking anyone else. No, we've still got the date. No, we understand how busy you must be and totally understand.
I'm not sure what changed between the Then and the Now unless it's that I actually have something important to say. Something that I hesitate to call 'from God', but it definitely didn't come from me. And the responsibility of that is like drowning slowly in thick paste. I am sick for days before the date. I struggle with preparing my material, waiting until the last minute to put anything on paper, sometimes not until the day of the event. I don't prepare or primp or gather my thoughts. There's nothing to gather. I am empty except for this feeling of dread.
God, what will you have me say? God, will these people be angry when I tell them the truth? God, will anyone listen? God, what if I say it wrong? God, I am so inadequate. God, can I say 'no, my schedule is full' next time? God, please, please.
I know I'm supposed to be crying, 'send me, I'll go', but I really want to put my head under the covers and hide. I am spoiled and difficult and not at all a willing servant. I am completely unprepared and inadequate. I can only guess why God keeps putting opportunities in front of me.
So, I find myself going to another church tonight that will be full of nice women expecting a nice evening of nicely decorated tables and catered food. They think I will take the podium wearing my nice clothes and tell a nice story about nice things that God has done in my life. When I rare back and unload both barrels full of righteous anger about all of the useless nice things we are doing as Christians, myself at the top of the list of offenders, I wonder if this is what they expected when they called me. It isn't nice at all. It's humbling. And horrifying. And messy. And full of unmet expectations and toe-stomping truth.
I liked my little 'pocket god' much better when He let me just be Nice. Now we have a real relationship fraught with all sorts of demands and expectations, much like the ones I have with my husband and my children. He's moved me, taught me, lifted me, protected me, and trusted me. Now He's ready for the payout. So, I'll take the stage and will tell the truth as I understand it from the Word of God. The beauty of that is then I'm free of the sickness. I can again get back to the basics of daily living and not crumble under the weight of these unbelievably heavy expectations.
Until next Saturday when I'm due at the next church.
Lord, Jesus, all of you and none of me.