J.K. Rowling and I should go for a coffee. We seem to have a lot in common. Besides our love for writing, books and our vivid imaginations, I found out earlier this week that we share a common fear. Someone asked the Harry Potter author over Twitter what terrifies her and she replied:
Although no one has asked me to read live at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, the last 12 months has been my own personal quest for a cure for my fear of public speaking.
Next week is the Carols by Candlelight service at my church. One year ago the minister asked me if I could share my testimony at the 2015 Carols by Candlelight service. Nervously, I agreed. (I cannot believe it has been one year!) You can read more about that service and my feelings about public speaking here: Why I Celebrate Christmas. If you haven’t read that post I describe the usual symptoms I experience when standing in front of a crowd of people:
My legs turn to jelly. My mouth dries up. My heart rate accelerates. And I spend some of the time thinking of a way to escape… It’s tough.
If I had known at the end of 2015, that 2016 would be a year of public speaking exposure I think I may have fainted. This year I have had to stand up in front of my church to share notices, lead small groups, read a prayer in front of a room of mentors and mentees, win an award for this very blog which meant addressing an audience of 150 plus people, prepare presentations in front of my SWYM peers and stand in front of secondary school children to help lead assemblies.
Those were serious hurdles for me to overcome. And I still keep jumping. I am feeling more and more confident and my legs don’t bang together anymore (I don’t think!). However, it’s still a massive deal to me to get up and do that.
What I am learning is experience matters. Getting placed in situations where I have to face those fears has helped to transform my perception of public speaking. I have a long way to go. It’s going to take a lot more practice for me to come across as cool, collected and confident on stage. However, I am persistent and I believe all things are possible when I commit my plans and my heart before God – even the most impossible task of standing in front of hundreds of people. Maybe one day God will place me in front of thousands.
Similarly, this year of public speaking has been a faith experience. I have had to practically place my faith in God to overcome this. Each and every time I have to pray. Sometimes it’s a long-winded prayer consisting of me listing all of my worry about going forward and doing it. Often it is short and sharp and to the point; I mutter under my breath ‘Lord, help me get through this today.’ God knows it before I utter it.
Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. Psalm 139:4
He knows what we’re facing. He knows our struggles. He sees our heart.
In all of that and above all of that, He wants us to come to Him just as we are. With all of our doubts, struggles and fears, the Lord hears. He has given Himself fully to us through Christ, but perhaps we are afraid or doubtful to trust Him. Until we step out in faith and put our trust in Jesus, we will never truly experience Him or understand His love for us.
Experience matters. Jesus experienced our pain and he bore our pain. Let us come to Christ expectant to experience Him alone.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
Finally, here is the scary, yet amazing moment I had to share a bit about ‘The Mustard Seed’ which won the Young Blogger of the Year 2016 category at the Premier Digital Awards: