Last Friday I woke up with a sore throat. When I opened my mouth to speak, I could do little more than whisper.
I had laryngitis. Wicked bad. This was terrible timing. In just a few hours, our high school fall retreat was beginning, and I would be spending the weekend with dozens of teenagers. Speaking was a skill I had planned on having and using. Despite trying almost every remedy suggested to me on Facebook and Twitter (except the really weird one involving gargling with Benadryl and Immodium), by the time the kids showed up I was still croaking like a frog.
Laryngitis is a great way to realize how much you have to say. Every few seconds brought frustrations of greetings I couldn't offer, questions I couldn't answer and -- most devastatingly for me -- opinions I couldn't voice. I was fortunate to be working with some truly wonderful adults who, sensing my predicament, helped me when I was struggling (which was all weekend). Anytime I opened my mouth, they'd step in and say what they thought I meant.
It was a really weird feeling, especially when I had anticipated spending the whole weekend talking with students. There were times when those who were speaking for me said things so much better than I ever could have, and I'd marvel that it was better that I hadn't been the one to answer the question. There were other times that I felt incredibly frustrated -- wanting so badly to convey something to a student, and they either couldn't hear me, or the person who was talking instead wasn't giving the same example or answer that I would have.
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What I found ironic about this whole situation is that on this retreat -- like the countless others I had taken kids on in the last 10 years -- my only prayer for them had been not that they heard me, but that they'd be able to hear the voice of God better in their lives through the words and deeds of those around them. Just like I was relying on the other leaders to speak for me that weekend, there are many times that God gives us the opportunity to speak for Him. Sure, he occasionally chimes in with a burning bush or choir of angels, but for the most part he leaves it up to us.
This can be really hard.
I don't think I'm the only one who lacks confidence when it comes to sharing their faith or what they believe. Sure, I can be awfully wordy as I sit here on my couch and wax away on my MacBook about what I feel God revealed to me last weekend, but when it comes to someone staring me in the face and asking me what I believe, I find it a lot harder to articulate. For example, someone will ask me why I'm in a good mood and I'll think to myself, "Because I had some great time in prayer this morning and I feel so assured that Jesus loves me and YOU!" but I'll open my mouth and say something dumb like, "Ahh, good coffee, I dunno."
When I was a kid and Mom would drop us off somewhere -- like a friend's house, the mall or a Little League game -- she'd remind us to be "ambassadors for Christ," echoing St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians when he reminds them, "We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us..." (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Relying on spokespersons for the weekend caused me to re-evaluate how good of an ambassador for Christ I've been.
Speaking up can be scary, but when it comes to sharing his message, you're the spokesperson God uses.