When You Face Your Fear of Public Speaking

Learn more about this photo at http://www.zanaafrica.org/

I hate public speaking. Like I’d rather run 10 miles or eat an entire jar of pickles than stand in front of people and speak. I don’t know what it is, but the moment I get up in front of a group, I freeze. Well, actually I start sweating and my voice sounds like I’m riding a wooden roller coaster. It’s actually quite pitiful. The only thing worse than public speaking, I’ve discovered, is public speaking on the spot.

When I was invited to observe a group of nonprofit workers facilitate a “Pad-Giveaway Day,” I assumed observing would be my only role. Lesson learned: don’t assume things. Within moments of my visit, the guest was invited to share a few words with the girls. We all sat there awkwardly waiting for the guest to stand up and share. NO! When I realized that I was the guest everyone was waiting on, I wanted to play dead. I hesitantly stood up and began moving my mouth attempting to form words. Pretty sure Jesus put words right on my tongue because I can only remember the sheer terror that came over me when tons of silent eyes were fixated on me.

My moment of fame passed (praise God), and James, the man of the hour, took over. Side note: James travels around Kenya building relationships with girls and boys in school and acts as a positive mentor in their lives. It’s really incredible seeing him interact and tackle some “awkward” subjects that most people pretend don’t exist until they have to. You can check out his organization here. The topic of discussion today was Role Models.

“Who is your role model?”

I was expecting answers like, “my mom,” or “my sister,” when James asked that question to a classroom full of 13 and 14 year-old girls. A girl near the middle of the room raised her hand, and once acknowledged, stood up and told the class her answer.

“Julie is my role model.”

“Why?” James asked.

“Because she traveled here from the States to bring us pads.”

Are you kidding me?! That was the last thing I was expecting to hear when James asked that question. Her words were so sweet and so sincere, but I couldn’t help but feel frustrated by them. How can I be her role model? I don’t even know her name. I was nothing more than a nameless visitor prior to my little speech.

For the rest of the day I thought about role models. I thought about how I didn’t want to be a role model because even on my best day, I’m still a messed up sinner. I thought about how badly I wanted these girls to know Jesus and imitate his life, not mine. All this internal conflict because I had to give a speech to a room full of strangers.

Jesus as a role model. I think I’ve glamorized what that looks like to imitate Jesus, but in reality, there’s nothing glamorous about it. He did things that made people uncomfortable. He preached a message that offended many. He loved and loves a lot of people that are really hard to love. Like me. I’m a messed up sinner, but Christ loves me anyway. I’m constantly putting things before Christ, yet he pursues me like I’m the only living being on this planet. I’m incapable of public speaking, but he uses my weaknesses for his greater purpose.

That’s pretty amazing.

And you know what else is amazing? That Christ in you and in me is worth imitating. Yes, Jesus is my role model. But so are my family, friends, professors and bosses. That’s because the Jesus in them makes them worth imitating.

Face your fears, friends. Because even when you face them pathetically (like I did), God still shows you something gold.


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