Yikes! I just preached!

Yes way. This last Sunday. I stood up and preached from Romans 12 1 – 2. And the sky did not fall in. Nobody got up and left. Or threw anything, or shouted heretic.

They were all quite nice about it actually.

And despite the sleepless nights and the 8 or 9 versions that I wrote before it was delivered, I really REALLY enjoyed it. Even writing that down seems like a big deal. I have learned to censor myself too much. I sound like a Jane Austen character. One of the demure, boring sisters. Maybe because sometimes that’s what I still think I’m meant to be. It’s hard to shake the idea that that’s what Godly looks like. Like a Victorian child, seen and not heard.

I said in a previous post this was my year of saying Yes. And no. No doubt I’ve got it mixed up a bit along the way but it was with a sense of daring bordering on recklessness that I said yes when asked if I would preach while one of our ministers was on paternity leave. It was like an out-of-body experience. I watched myself say yes quickly without agonising and then, having said yes, I watched myself not agonise about having said yes to such a stand-up-the-front-and-make-everyone-listen-to-you-for-twenty-minutes thing. I just went on with my life until it was time to prepare. Who was this strange relaxed woman who had invaded my body?

I figured she’d taken the night before the service off because I was very much back in charge then. I spent a while letting all kinds of weird scenarios process through my head like some kind of carnival parade. My insecurities were jumping up in my face like our overexcited dog. Then this question cut through the noise: how did you get here and how do you really feel? Deep down, out of sight of the pointing fingers and turned backs in your imagination. That was God. I have no doubt. As I pondered the question, I realised that deep down, I felt neither stress nor anxiety, but excitement. I was buzzing, but feeling somehow wrong about it. A blog I’ve found recently by Jory Micah may have helped me knock the last few nails in the coffin of why girls can’t preach, but it was still hard to shake the feeling that I was having altogether too much fun even thinking about doing it.

When I was a child our vicar, a lovely man called Graham Hayles, would describe how God would give him bits and pieces to add to his sermon as the week went on, in events and unexpected conversations with people as he went about his pastoral work, or shopping or gardening or whatever. He would talk about insights that came as he observed things around him. I remember that I loved hearing about that, thinking how cool it must be. Just to think about and observe the world and see what God is saying today to reinforce and explain the ancient texts of scripture for us today. Strange thing for a young girl to enjoy, but there you are.

Now fast forward exty-ex years to last Saturday. Here I was about to do just that. To preach God’s word, illustrated by my own insights, coincidences and random events, which had been accumulating for weeks like the dustbunnies under my bed. My fears and anxieties melted away as I realised that God had orchestrated this whole event. I did not ask to speak but was asked. I only had to do my part and leave the rest up to him. It went well. I felt calm. Very, very calm. They even laughed at my jokes.

It was only after I sat down that I began to shake.

The Confidence Project

Some of us are bold by nature. Some of us are made bold by the gifts we discover in ourselves. Many more have gifts but no confidence. We all have something to contribute to this place we live in. I believe we were put here for a purpose. I haven’t found mine yet, and for years, thousands and thousands of days, I’ve been afraid to try. Afraid to fail. Afraid to be laughed at, to be found ridiculous or pathetic or whatever. I’m going to stop gazing at and describing this fear, accommodating myself to it and generally paying it too much attention. It’s time to take more direct action. Dismantle and demolish those dusty old complexes I’ve extended and customised over the years and tear down the walls of the labyrinth I’ve constructed to keep my ambitions and dreams safely contained.

Some of us are bold by nature. Some are made bold by outstanding gifts. And some, like me, are frightened into it. You see I know that If I don’t take action now, I’ll be stuck with a set of regrets to recite to myself in old age. How do I know this? Because I’ve seen it happen. I know a man who has lived a long and peaceful life, given generously of himself and his resources, always helped out where he could. He’s a popular family man with plenty of social capital. But when he thinks he’s alone he rehearses aloud and bitterly the scenes in his past that should have gone differently. Decisions he was too scared to take, risks he couldn’t face. Conversations that wounded. And although his life has by many measures been a great one, he has trained himself to see only failure and missed opportunities. At a time in life when I would hope to be enjoying the simple pleasures of being present, he is haunted by regrets.

So that’s why I’m starting my Confidence Project. For people who can’t hold two positive thoughts in a row without feeling unwell. For people who find cat posters annoying. For the formerly cynical, who have discovered the fear behind their mockery. For anyone who wants to join me.