I was incredibly honored to speak at a women’s gathering at my home church last night. But, have mercy, if it wasn’t one of the most nerve-wracking speaking experiences I’ve ever had!
I’m usually a little nervous before I get up to speak. There is a serious weightiness that comes with knowing you’re about to share God’s word. But this time my heart thought we were at a cardio class instead of a women’s group and nearly beat right out of my chest the whole time! I was a shaking leaf.
It was an intimidating crowd, ya’ll. Present were 4 previous school teachers, numerous women who changed my diaper in the nursery, my college roommate, Sunday School teachers, youth group trip chaperones, and women of the faith who trained me up in the Lord and launched me into the world like a chick from their nest.
Also, half my family! (I made them sit where I couldn’t see them.)
These people have seen every awkward stage and every foolish mistake. They know I talk to much in class and procrastinate and that I can be really self-centered and prideful. And unlike most of the crowds I speak to, this one knows I don’t have it all together. And they have the pictures to prove it.
And the report cards. And the Stupid Beth Stories. And the youth group videos.
When I looked into their faces, I was painfully aware that these dear women had seen me through years of foolishness and sin. Not that I have arrived, by any means. But we can all hope that I’m a little further along on the road to righteousness than I was at 15.
But it was more than my own previous mistakes and immaturity I saw when I looked at that crowd. I also saw Pillars of the Faith. Women who have raised Godly children, and proved faithful to husbands for decades, and served Christ’s church through thick and thin.
I saw women of the Word who have taught generations through Sunday School and Bible study. Women who lead the charge in missions and take food to shut ins and host all manner of events to draw in young people and point them to Christ.
I saw women who have buried children and walked through painful divorces and lived through terrible diagnosis. All while steadfastly glorifying the Father and determining to be faithful to Him despite their questions.
I saw women who have been walking with Jesus since before I was born. Who have lived out a life “worthy of the calling.” I saw women who wholeheartedly embody the message God had laid on my heart to deliver: Cling to Christ.
So how do you tell those words to women who have been doing it longer and better and in deeper ways than your young little self? You do it with fear and trembling. And with great humility realizing God has asked you to preach to the choir.
And with a little head scratching, wondering at the ways of One who sends a student to deliver a message to the teacher.
It was by far some of the holiest ground I’ve stood on. And although I was the one delivering the “message”, God used the women in that room to act as a mirror for the very words I was teaching. Out of my mouth came, “Cling to Christ” but their lives reverberated back to me: Cling to Christ.
A holy echo. A sacred reminder from those who have devoted their lives to the heartbeat of my message.
I might have been preaching to the choir. But in retrospect, they were the ones preaching to me.