It was my Sophomore year in high school. Health class. I was to give an oral report – a topic now long forgotten.
What isn’t forgotten is the fear I experienced, standing in front of that class filled with other Sophomore girls. Here I was, seriously intimidated with a room full of eyes directed toward me – the popular, the smart, the plain, the quiet – supposedly listening to what I had to say.
My nerves were beyond control, and I pretty much read the whole report….no, I read all the report. I can still see the blur of my hand writing on the college ruled paper, which was shaking in my hands because of my nerves. When after an eternity I finished, I was required to ask, “Does anyone have questions, additions or corrections?”
I heard a question from a faceless girl. I stood there, feeling very naked and replied, “I don’t know.”
She retorted, “You just read it!” I can still hear the giggles and silence at the same time.
I sat down.
The fear of speaking in front of people hasn’t changed much in the decades since. I’ve often wished I could speak in front of others – words of encouragement to other women, simply sharing what things are important to me and how I learn. All kinds of ideas come to mind. But, sadly, get me in front of a group of any size and the words jumble and, well, the brain freezes.
A dear friend of mine, born and raised in China – now an American citizen – shared a story that gave new meaning to this kind of fear.
She was working for a business back in her home country that helped North Koreans escape into their area. It was one of these occasions, they gathered a particularly small group of frightened adults into an office with an American visitor. Because my friend could speak English, she was there to assist along with a N. Korean translator as the American shared culture and encouragement with these weary people.
A woman, stationed on “watch” outside the room, entered their meeting place and urgently whispered to my friend, “There are police outside.”
Immediately, without skipping a beat, my friend knew she needed to make an appearance. As she told me this part of the story she said, “All I knew was God promised in his Word that he would give us the words when we needed them. So, I just knew I needed to trust what He said is true.”
As she prepared to leave the room, my friend spoke in English to the American to not be alarmed but she was about to meet with the authorities outside. The policemen immediately questioned her about the American they knew was inside. They particularly emphasized it was against the law to hold meetings with American Christians. “But,” she replied, “he is just sharing about his culture. These people are very curious and if they ask about religion, it is only because they are interested in the culture. Would you like to join us?”
This was a very unexpected request. I laugh in surprise as my friend tells this part of the story. She smiles, and says she actually asked them twice! And, each time they replied, “No.” It was at this point in the conversation my friend realized these men had no idea who the other people were.
Giving a warning, the men left.
This small group of people were set free that day – in more ways than they expected.
We all know it is deceptive, it keeps us from moving in any direction.
We’re frozen into inaction.
Standing in front of intimidating faces is one thing.
Believing God’s Word is true, is quite another.
Our fears transform into bold joy.
And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. ~ Mark 13:11″