I changed the name of this entry several times… i couldn’t pick between Hey Mom I’m On TV!, No Autographs Please!, or My Big Debut!. i settled on the more reserved and simple Speaking at the men’s group.
Saturday morning I was a “guest speaker” although I think that term is a little too formal and makes it sound like I do this sort of thing regularly. I stood in front of a bunch of guys and told them a story about how I went from lost to found. That’s what I’d call it. Me and a guy set this event up about 2 and a half months ahead of time. That’s how far out I had to schedule it in order to agree to doing it. I’ll tell ya, I was certainly nervous. I knew I shouldn’t have been but I couldn’t help it. I practiced my speech over and over again in my basement the day before I spoke. I kept changing my notes, kept finding new things I wanted to add, things I took out. I thought some of my subject matter was a little out there for some of the guys, and I wasn’t sure how it would be received. But to in order to be honest and sincere and genuine, I had to share some things that I didn’t necessarily want to. It was the only way I could share my story.
I learn new things about the way church works all the time. By “church” I mean the people that make up the body of Christ, the family, the brotherhood. The REAL people. Not the building, not the snazzy looking folks on Sunday morning all shaking hands and smiling even though there’s something in their lives right now that makes them want to cry. I mean the folks that are out in the world right now doing their best to show Jesus to the world. They aren’t perfect people, they don’t have it “all together,” they aren’t cookie cutouts of each other. I didn’t always know this to be true, but even now, I see more and more all the time of how the body of Christ, the people, work together and treat each other. I got to witness it some more Saturday morning.
Sitting at the table with some guys in the few minutes before I spoke, I did loosen up a bit. Listening to the guys sit and chat I got a little more comfortable. But I still felt that my subject matter might be a little harsh for these guys. I just hoped they came with open minds. After I was introduced, I began to approach the front of the room. I felt my heart speed up and my face get a little red. I fumbled my notes around as I opened up with the joke I practiced a hundred times. I don’t really remember, but I’m almost certain I still messed it up. I still got a laugh which was a great relief. Getting up there was half the work. I was there, I had my scribbled notes, now all I had to do was open my mouth and let the words fall out.
I warmed up rather quickly. I got a few laughs out of the guys that made it go a little easier. I spoke, I don’t think I said “umm” too many times, and I stayed on track with my notes for the most part. The trouble with my notes was that I practiced this several times and had not been able to keep it below 45 minutes. I cut it down from an hour, but I didn’t really want to remove any more detail. Eventually I reached a point where I was speaking confidently and paying less attention to my notes. Looking back now, I realize I should have looked down once in a while. I skipped a few things, I left some stories open ended, I added things I didn’t mean to add. Still it went rather well I think.
It was obvious that it was my first time speaking. I think it could have gone a little better. It almost felt like turning in a rough draft as a final copy for an assignment. But, I think most of that is in my head. I did fine. I got my point across, and the reaction from the guys was kind, and a little unforeseen. I got lots of handshakes, smiles, some of the guys were more touched than others which was awesome for me. There were some tears as well. To be honest I was praying that I could get through all of this without breaking down myself.
There’s this image I can’t get out of my head. It’s been there since before I was a church goer. It’s the image of church people running around church, all dressed up, smiling and shaking hands, saying “good morning, bless you, praise God, see ya later.” Almost putting on this façade that life is perfect, no one is struggling with anything, and we are all happy with each other. It’s not just an image in my head either, it really does tend to happen… but its only the surface. If you don’t pay attention that can be all you see. It’s easy for us church people to get into that groove, that routine. But I promise you, if you scratch at the surface a bit, you will find that these people are all people with problems, struggles, worries, and everything else you’ll find in the rest of the world… but we love Jesus.
I love having some of that realness of the people exposed. It keeps things genuine. It gives us a chance to actually be what we claim to be, people who support one another, and love one another, care for one another and pray for one another, and get each other through hardships for the love of God. One thing I discovered while speaking to these guys is that although I thought I might offend them a bit, I was absolutely not alone in my struggles with this group. The best part of speaking to them was that it got some of them to open up to me afterward about their struggles, and we shared stories and thoughts and encouraged one another. It was amazing. In truth, I’d have to say that the whole experience was more for me than it was for them. I left feeling an incredible sense of relief. It was an awesome exercise in being a real group of people, with real problems, real pasts, and still we as Christians brought to life the idea of “as steel sharpens steel, one man sharpens another.”
I loved speaking to them, and I’d certainly do it again. I left feeling like I grew from this experience and I think many of them did too, so mission accomplished, it was a win for team Jesus. That’s what matters. I went up there to glorify God, and I believe that was achieved.
Just as a heads up, the event was recorded. There is a copy of it floating around somewhere. I don’t know what the church has planned to do with it, but I’m sure I’ll get a copy and it will probably surface on my blog or facebook, or in email or something. The only issue about posting the video to my blog is that I don’t have the paid version of my blog, so I’m a bit restricted on the amount of data I can upload. But I’ll look into it and figure something out. I WILL be posting the written version of my speech here soon. They will differ quite a bit too, just because of my inexperience speaking in public, and editing the story down to an appropriate length. So check them both out! Thanks. God bless.