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Death by Stage

Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking at the State Evangelism Conference for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma in the women’s session. It was a great experience. Everyone was very gracious, and I would do it again in a heartbeat given the chance.

I actually felt pretty good when I stepped down off of the stage. Having prepared more for this one event than for anything else I’ve ever done, I didn’t have a lot of regrets in that moment. I knew that I hadn’t left anything that I planned to say out—which should come as no surprise to anyone that was there considering the fact that I went about ten minutes over. Sorry, Kelly!—but I did think of several things later that I could have included. I always do.

Writing, for me, is a lot easier than speaking, safer. I spill words out onto the page as they occur to me and get the chance to read, reread, and edit as many times as I want before I send my thoughts out there to influence anyone. Speaking is different. Unless you are delivering a script from memory, your words spill out as they occur to you, land as worms in the ears of others, and bore in before you get a chance to edit.

No matter how hard you try to listen to the Holy Spirit, empty your heart of self, and communicate Truth as you understand it, the message is inevitably muddied by the earthen vessel through which it travels. Although 95% of what you say may be directly from God, the other 5% is clouded by opinion, pride, a spirit of competition, artificial affectation, etc. That’s just the way it is, the way it will be until we get to Heaven and God completes the work He began in us, and I hate it.

Heading into yesterday, I was prayed up, ‘fessed up, and as wide open to the Spirit as I have ever been, and yet, last night, thinking back through the words that I had spoken just hours before, I detected a hint of sarcasm here, a note of pride there, some personal opinion thrown in for…what? Good measure? Good grief! Excuse me a moment while I sigh and shake my head at myself. Oh well, too late to edit now, right?

It’s probably good for me, this shaky, hope-that-was-okay-but-I-know-it-could-have-been-better feeling that I get after stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something that requires me to lean fully on the Lord rather than my own ability. For one thing, it forces me to come face-to-face with my own limitations and constant need for a Savior.

Furthermore, it humbles me and kills my inner critic. Suddenly, those people who, in my mind, “should know better” become those who probably do know better now and wish they could go back and change things, just like me. Impatience fades. Disillusionment disappears. Contempt becomes compassion, and pride gives way to prayer for those no more flawed than I.

What’s the lesson?  Well, brothers and sisters, maybe if we spent less time blaming and criticizing each other and discrediting the Church publicly and spent more time serving beyond ourselves, where human ability is not enough, full dependence on God is the only guarantee of victory, and our faith is stretched beyond that which we can muster on our own, we’d finally learn what it means to love and forgive each other and work as a team. Maybe we’d paint a more accurate portrait of the Savior’s Bride.

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