Wednesday, October 5, 2011

His Grace Alone

A year and a half ago, anxiety controlled my life.

Crippling fear and panic attacks were a part of life. I was shy, reserved, and didn't have enough self-confidence to initiate friendships. I was scared of everything and everyone to some point, terrified that I would make a bad impression and that someone wouldn't like me or would be disappointed in me.

Something changed that. And that something is God.

When I went to Peru for the first time last summer, I was pushed out of my comfort zone more than I ever had been before. I was forced to see children like my brother and sister in awful, heartbreaking circumstances. I had to speak in front of hundreds of people and give my testimony. I had to teach a Bible class to girls who were my age or older.

And the speaking. The speaking was the worst. Being in front of people terrified me. It triggered my anxiety like nothing else. I wouldn't be able to eat for hours beforehand because my stomach was already churning. My breathing would be heavy and my heartbeat rapid. Often my mind would go completely blank.

But something changed in me. Some part of me realized that when I spoke to people, it didn't have to be me doing the talking. If I allowed God to speak through me, I had nothing to worry about.

Since then, I have spoken so many times, it has almost lost its effect on me. It hardly makes me nervous anymore. You need a speech about orphans? I can pull it together in less than five minutes. Talk about how God changed me in Peru? I could do it on the spot.

But tonight challenged me. I've been memorizing the book of Philippians. On Monday morning, I had the first two chapters down. I was about six verses into the third. And, truth be told, I had kind of slacked off on it. I hadn't really worked to memorize the verses in weeks. But that changed with one single text from my youth pastor.

He wanted to know if I could recite the third chapter of Philippians at youth church on Wednesday night.

My heart froze up. Recite the third chapter? I wasn't done with that one yet! My first impulse was to say no. But I paused. I could do it. I knew I could. I could have the rest of the chapter by Wednesday, no problem. And quickly, before I could have the chance to change my mind, I texted back a "yes".

All day Monday and Tuesday and today, I recited the verses as often as possible. Over and over and over again. In my room by myself. Every moment I was in the car. Say them over and over and over. As many times as I could. But I was still a little shaky. In my heart, I knew the verses.

By myself, I could say them fine. But something about being in front of other people makes my mind disappear. And verses were different than just speaking. If I was just talking about something on stage, I could wing it. If I didn't say exactly what I had thought before, nobody cared. Because nobody knew what it was intended to be.

But every single person in that audience had a Bible or had one close and could look and see if I was doing it right. You can't wing Bible verses.

It was with great fear that I walked up on that stage tonight. My friends all cheered loud for me, and had encouraged me beforehand. But I was nervous. So, so nervous that I would mess it up.

My youth pastor gave me the microphone. I took a deep breath, and I was off. My mind was frantic and scattered, but most of it my mouth knew. I had said it so many times that I simply knew what to say on impulse. But I got to a part in the middle, and my mind went completely blank.

I had no idea what was next. I was mortified. But someone in the audience gave me the next word and I was back on track. After getting through the rest of the chapter and shakily completing the last verse, I exhaled.

My entire body slumped and I felt cold relief and exhaustion rush over me. I thrust the microphone into my youth pastor's hand and was off the stage before he could say another word. I barely noticed the standing ovation. My one and only thought was to get to my seat and not collapse.

The crazy part was all the people that came up to me afterward, though.

"That was amazing!"

"How did you do that?"

"I could never do that!"

"You were incredible!"

While I was thankful for the support and the encouragement, the comment I hated most was the, "I could never do that."

Because you could. There was nothing special about me memorizing Philippians. I don't have special memorization powers. I'm not exceptionally good at speaking. In fact, anyone could have done what I did, and probably would do it better.

What people don't understand is that the only reason I was able to stand up there and recite Philippians 3 is that God allowed it. God allowed me to soak in His word and know it, and then share it with others. What I did, I did by the grace of God and the grace of God alone.

Can you see how He uses our weaknesses to showcase His glory? He chose a girl who has an anxiety disorder, who a year and a half ago would have had a panic attack doing this, who was so insecure that she couldn't ask people to hang out - He used that girl to show His people that they too can know His word and have it in their hearts!

There is no power in me. No glory. No honor. All honor, glory, and power is to God. The God who gives us strength to do things we never could have dreamed of.

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