I remember her bugged out eyes and scowled expression as she leaned across the long rectangular table crammed with the kids in my reading group.
“It’s BUT-TON,” she hissed. “Say it! BUT-TON, BUT-TON, BUT-TON!!”
I hung my head in total shame. I couldn’t do it. My lips would not form the sounds that she wanted me to say.
“BUD-DUN,” I said with a voice so soft you had to strain to hear it.
“BUT-TON!!” She barked. “Say the /t/ sound! /t/, /t/, /t/!!”
Her face was bright red and her eyes grew wider with each emphasis of the /t/ sound. I remember spittle flying out of her mouth. The students sat in stony silence and starred at me. My cheeks burned from embarrassment and I wanted nothing more than to crawl under the table and hide forever.
“It’s not BUD-DUN, BUD-DUN, BUD-DUN,” she mocked. “It’s BUT-TON! /t/, /t/, /t/!!!”
No matter how many times she demonstrated, my lips couldn’t do it. They refused to cooperate. I silently begged for them to obey but every attempt only produced the same result.
Beyond frustrated that her gifted & talented student was anything but gifted or talented, my 4th grade teacher let out a big huff, and, to my relief, finally moved on. The student next to me resumed reading aloud where I had stopped, obviously at the word “button,” while I used every ounce of my strength to hold back the tears. I vowed to myself then and there that I would never, ever read aloud again. Ever.
I kept that promise for many decades. I never volunteered to read aloud. I never gave speeches. I froze in every spelling bee, always getting eliminated during the first round. I skipped my required public speaking class in college more than I attended. When my husband and I prayed together for the first time, a simple prayer to bless the food, my eyes twitched so badly that I almost had to stop.
In every instance, I was that 4th grade girl all over again. Stumbling and tripping over my words, face burning in five different shades of crimson, and eyes averted to avoid all the faces. Public speaking, public reading, public praying – public anything – and I were never going to be friends.
The fear of humiliation brought on by that day plus the fear of rejection that was brought on by another painful experience in 5th grade kept me far, far away from putting myself before people. It was safer that way. I set cruise control in the safe lane and intended on staying there…forever.
Five years ago, the Lord began nudging me out of my self-protected comfort zone. I was asked to lead a Bible study which required nothing more of me than reading from a book in front of a group of ladies who were already my friends. Pretty easy stuff, right? Yeah right! You couldn’t have asked me to do a more terrifying thing! Moving from a Bible study participant to a Bible study leader was a big leap for me, but, the wooing of the Holy Spirit proved greater than the pounding of my fears and I timidly said yes.
On that first Wednesday night in August 2012, I remember thinking that the “teacher” chair, which was the same padded chair that all the other participants sat in, felt so different, so ill-fitting. All eyes were turned towards me and I nervously looked down to straighten my already perfectly straight notes. When I finally found the courage to speak, I shared the verses that the Lord had laid on my heart:
And so it was with me, sisters. I come to you, not with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaim to you the testimony about God. For I resolve to know nothing while I am with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I come to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message is not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And so, that is how it has been over the past five years. The Lord keeps calling and I keep accepting the call in both total obedience and total weakness. He has called me again and again to do things that I could never do on my own. I have no eloquence of speech to fall back on. Every word spoken is with great fear and trembling. I stumble over and often mispronounce words. And, guess what? Nobody laughs. Nobody mocks.
Every new call is an exposure of my extraordinary weaknesses; weaknesses that still cling to and taunt me. They just won’t go away. Why won’t the Lord permanently remove them? That has been my cry for years. But, over and over, He has shown me that I, in all my human weakness, am sufficient enough. He doesn’t need the brightest, the most eloquent spokesperson. He simply needs me to trust Him.
This past Thursday and Friday was the ultimate step forward in this trust relationship that the Lord and I have developed over the past five years. The By Faith She girls were asked to lead a panel discussion in front of a room full of women at a local Women of Faith two-night event. Most of these women were strangers to me. They weren’t my familiar and safe Bible study girls who think my verbal stumbling and tripping is endearing.
What if I mess up? What if I lose my train of thought? What if I go blank? What if I fall?
Sheer panic. That 4th grade girl was back where she started.
The “what if’s” raced through my brain and my heart sped up its rhythm to follow along. I reached for my only lifeline – prayer.
On both nights, I dismissed myself to the bathroom, locked the door behind me, and knelt prostrate onto the floor. “Father,” I called. “I can’t do this,” I began.
The girl who took the stage at 6:30pm had just laid on the bathroom floor at 6:20pm. That’s how utterly aware I am of my dependency on the Lord. I begged Him to go before me. I begged Him to use my voice. I begged Him to help me speak clearly. I begged Him to use me. I begged Him to hold me upright. And, when my feet hit that stage, pure trust took over. It felt amazing.
Just as we were finishing, an unexpected thing happened. As I was about to stand up, I realized that my foot had fallen asleep. A wave of panic shot through me. The ladies were exiting the stage and there was no graceful way to stall or make my foot wake up. “It’s just a couple of steps,” I thought. “I can do this.” My right foot turned to face the stairs and I heard a pop before collapsing onto the stage. Nothing broke my fall. I was like a sack of potatoes that fell splat onto the ground. It happened in an instant.
I was staring at the floor, pain shooting up my dead leg. I remember thinking that staring at the floor with an audience right in front of me was not where I was supposed to be. But, there I was. Unable to move and unable to speak. My public speaking debut had ended with me on all fours while the audience looked on. Talk about my worst nightmare coming true!
I was finally able to limp to my chair several minutes later to a chorus of applause. When I sat down, the magnitude of what had just happened fell on me. “I cannot believe that I fell!” My thoughts screamed inside my head.
The 4th grade girl started taunting me.
The Lord shut her up.
She would start again.
He would shut her up again.
Over and over it went until the moment when I realized the most profound thing – my face had not turned red! I had sat on that stage for a good two or three minutes and not once did I feel my cheeks burn! Not once did I feel embarrassed! Wrapped up in that realization was one of the sweetest freedoms that I have ever known.
“My message is not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.”
The word “demonstration” is the Greek word apodeixis that means proof or evidence in court of law. Paul did not speak with eloquence of a polished speaker. Was this a problem for God? Absolutely not. Rather, it only proved God’s power. This power or dunamis is the same word used in the New Testament for “miracles.” What the Holy Spirit demonstrated through Paul was nothing short of a miracle because, left on his own, Paul could not have done what He did. He wasn’t a great spokesperson but God made him one! Paul’s weaknesses did not get in God’s way. Instead, his weaknesses only highlighted God’s undeniable, irrefutable power; a power that was operating inside of Paul as the Holy Spirit spoke things through Paul that he, in his weak flesh, could not do. Paul was well acquainted with and even boasted about his weaknesses because he knew that HIS WEAKNESSES WAS WHERE GOD SHOWED UP!
Last week, I wrote about how the Lord intends good in the situations where the enemy intends harm. As a 4th grade girl who had just fallen in love with and given my heart to Jesus the previous year, I wasn’t aware of the enemy’s schemes. I wasn’t aware that a girl who couldn’t even count her age in double digits was a threat to him. I wasn’t aware that he had set a snare for me and I had fallen into it with ease.
I know better now.
The fact that the enemy has tried to shut me up for my entire life only tells me that God has something for me to say. It tells me that God has marked me with a purpose and will never stop calling me out of my comfort zone so that He can show His power through me. It tells me that there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ. Zero. I may stumble, I may trip, I may stutter, and I may fall BUT my God picks me right back up and says, “Keep going my girl, keep going!”
The enemy silences me. The Lord gives me a voice. I’m too hard-headed and fiercely independent to let the devil shut me up. I will do it scared. I will do it shaking. I will do it with my face biting the stage. I will do it as long as the Lord gives me breath. By faith, I will be among those whose weakness was turned to strength. Hebrews 11:34
How about you? Will you be there with me?
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9
Special thanks to an audience member who captured this photo and sent it to us. It is visual evidence of the Lord's miraculous work in my life.
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a passionate advocate of all things healthy & natural and a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.
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