The thing about giving a speech, for beginners or remedials like me, is that there is a wide canyon between what actually comes out of your mouth and how it is playing out in your head. And it is frustrating to me, this disconnect; that I can’t make myself do outside my head what I can so easily do inside my head.
In my head, my voice is as warm and golden as melted butterscotch. Outside my head, my voice is more akin to the sound of an angry wet cat wearing nose plugs. Inside my head, my pacing is mellow, pauses are dramatic and gestures punctuate meaning. Outside my head, my pacing is that of a spooked race horse and my gestures are more akin to muscle spasms. Inside my head, my audience is nodding and dabbing tears and chuckling at my subtle humor. Outside my head, 15 people are staring back at me like my hair just caught fire.
In my head, I’m also four inches taller and 10 pounds lighter and I am not wearing discount store pants hemmed up with blue painters tape. And I look a little more like Charlize Theron.
The afternoon of The Big 5, I was sitting in a session listening to a speaker give practical and expert advice and encouragement in the fine art of oratory. In one ear, I was feeling her encouragement and I was envisioning myself living out her expertise. I was thinking, oh yes siree, I can do it! But in the other ear, I was hearing, “Who do you think you are? You? Sharing the gospel? Seriously? Have you heard your voice?”
And I would say, yes, as a matter of fact I have heard my voice, I have a voice recorder! And then I would cringe and shudder and wince. Who do I think I am, indeed.
The longer I sat there, the tighter I wound myself into a big sticky ball of anxiety and doubt.
So I quietly slipped out of the session to take in a long deep breath, walk off my anxiety and to try to shake the great discourager off my shoulder. I was in a bit of a throw down with the evil one. And so if you saw a crazy lady coming out of the restrooms shaking her fist at the air and hissing, “Do NOT mess with ME!” — that was me.
As I walked towards the restrooms, I saw Lysa Terkeurst and her assistant Holly pow-wowing at a little table in the lobby. They waved me over, so I stopped and said hello. I can’t even remember what was said, but when Lysa talks to you, she always looks fully into your eyes and beyond into your being, no matter she is just saying hello or delivering the gospel. And Holly is perhaps the wisest, sanest most unflappable woman on the planet.
As I looked into Lysa’s unblinking gray green eyes, I wanted to close mine tight. I did not want to look at her because something was already tapping on the door of my heart, asking me to up the ante on the anxiety, to raise the bar, to scrape off another layer of skin, to give more than I had. And I did not want to answer that call.
A few minutes later, on my way back to my session, I passed Lysa and Holly again. They were still sitting at the little table, engaged deeply in conversation. I was relieved that I could slip past them and go merrily on my anxious way back to the session, unnoticed. I walked past them just a few steps and then something stopped me dead in my tracks and turned me around.
I walked back to the table they were huddled over. They both looked up and smiled at me politely, even though, clearly, I was interrupting. I hate to interrupt. I spend most of my waking hours trying to avoid interrupting or being a bother to others, hence my fear of making phone calls. And here I was interrupting the busiest woman at the conference.
I didn’t know exactly why I was standing there interrupting, so I just blurted out, “Lysa, do you ever go to the speaker evaluation groups? You know, to hear the speakers?”
She said that she used to do that but it just made the speakers even more nervous.
Exactly. Up the anxiety ante. That was what I was supposed to do. That’s why I was standing there.
I heard myself ask her if she would be willing to come hear me give my speech. After about two seconds of schedule checking and wrangling, she said yes. And really, that says way more about her than me.
Just so you are clear on what transpired here, I asked the leader of a large conference, a nationally known speaker and author, who was scheduled to lead a session at the very same time I was speaking, to come listen to my piddly little five-minute speech. And she said yes. It would be like getting off the tourist’s bus at Buckingham palace, spotting the queen and running up to her and asking her to stop by your room for a spot of tea. And she says yes.
Up the ante, He said. Then depend on me.
I don’t really think it was just a coincidence that Lysa and Holly were sitting just outside the session I was in. I don’t think that Lysa and Holly woke up that morning thinking they should follow me around and sit outside the sessions I was attending just in case I might need to ask them to do some crazy, unscheduled thing. I’m pretty sure not. Not planned. Not coincidence.
After the session, I went back to my room to practice and to pray and then practice and pray a little more. What I had to give to God was not great, I know that, He knows that, but I was going to give all I had and more. I was going to up the ante not because I wanted to, but because He asked me.
So Lysa and Holly came and listened to my speech. And I did okay.
I recorded my speech with a little pocket recorder I carry around with me and when I listened to it later, it bridged the mighty canyon between what I heard in my head and what actually transpired. It was the most honest of all evaluations.
I was nervous. I spoke too fast. I dropped a few key lines. The faces that stared back at me were mostly wide-eyed and puzzled. The written feed back was mixed — some got what I was saying, some didn’t. But none of that really matters.
It wasn’t about my performance, it was about my obedience.
I was called to up the ante that day, to lean a little harder on my Jehovah-Rapha. And I was obedient.
And that is all that matters.