So this turn on a dime, moments-ago-atheist had messed up communion, and then messed up the sacred “no drinking, no bars” commandment. I forgot to mention I was baptized twice in one day, since the day of my baptism, we filmed a video (and by “video” I mean an actual camera with movie film in it…I’m old) actually in the baptistry of our church. This video was an “adventures in baptism” type attempt at humor that involved life jackets, rubber duckies, drowning converts and a real surfboard. Then I was baptized for real, and our previous attempt at humor made the reality and sweetness of the real thing all the more impactful. The course change of my life was an exciting adventure. And it was stinking fun!
Then I heard about our next mission trip. What was an annual event for this crew I had connected with was a foreign and intimidating idea to me. We were going to Northern Michigan to play music in malls, and on a local TV station, we were going to knock on doors and share the gospel with real live people. And we were going to have tent meetings (whatever those are) at night where we would invite the people we saw in the day to come and hear. In those tent meetings there would be music, and preaching and some of us were asked to share our testimony (whatever that is…). I had a lot of questions. These people spoke a common and accepted language which was all new to me.
The whole “testimony” thing was explained to me. You stand up and tell your life story. You tell how God changed you. The idea was to help other people see, and ultimately perhaps experience the same life-changing-encounter that you had. The explanation was great. It was what followed that scared me spitless. (another christian euphemism I learned…)
After the explanation the guy in charge (yeah, the same intimidating guy from the last post…) asked if I would stand up and share my “testimony” in front of roughly three hundred people.
If you have been following this string of posts you may recall that talking to people was my greatest fear. Or at least this was my experience. I had failed a project because it involved a verbal class presentation, in which I stood in front of my class and froze. My greatest fear was getting up in front of humans and talking. At least I thought it was. This was to be my first experience of “what if it’s not what you think?”
I said “yes” mostly because this guy was so intimidating, and I was afraid to say no. Then I began the introspective fear work-up. A visceral, gut-twisting freeze began in my abdomen. Attached to it was an onslaught of thoughts about all the possible ways I could look stupid. As the fear built, I approached Mr. Intimidating guy. He seemed to have no fear. He had also taken the last six month of my life to show me that the most helpful and transformational response to the human condition could be found somewhere in the Bible. So I wanted to find an answer for what I thought my condition was.
“Can you help me find some verses on fear,” I asked him? He gave me one. And it was not the one I wanted.
He showed me Galatians 1:10 (After six months I knew that Galatians was in the New Testament, AND I knew what a “New Testament” was!) The verse reads, “Are you now trying to please God or to please men? If you are trying to please men you cannot serve God”
I was kind of slow. This verse did not have the word “fear” in it anywhere. I read it. I read it again. Then my eyes slowly opened. I was not afraid of public speaking, I was afraid of peoples opinions. As long as I kept my mouth shut, people could not think poorly of me. To open my mouth in front of them meant to put myself at their mercy, and the power of their opinions of me. For some reason, I had come to believe that if they disapproved it would be my undoing.
This was the beginning of a journey of freedom for me. Two things happened simultaneously.
First I learned that if I defined my trap inaccurately, I could never find my way out of it. Somehow, right there in the New Testament was a very helpful re-definition (It made me Think Differently…) of the motive of my heart. With these words and the help of God’s Present-and-Active-ness this small verse began to change how I thought, and thus began to change me.
Second, I took my first step into a destiny that I had no idea was mine. With this shift, I stood up in front of a crowd of people, was filled with God’s Spirit, and stood there watching God change people while I spoke. Ummm…I was HOOKED. I felt something leap inside me. This felt good. Instead of fearing these peoples response to me, I saw them receive something through me and respond in life-changing ways.
Today my favorite thing to do is to stand and speak. It is what I was created and redeemed to do. In some ways the greater change for me was not “Atheist to Born-Again” but “Intimidated People-Pleaser to compelled to influence”. The course change of my life is still an exciting adventure, and it is stinking fun!!
(Thanks for reading. I would be remiss, if I did not tell you that somewhere out there exists an amateur film entitled “Baptism ’79” featuring our gang and yours truly in a prominent and wet role)