Another Anniversary

Today also marks another special anniversary in my journey with Jesus.

In spring of 1999, I knew without a doubt that God was calling me into pastoral ministry.  I was terrified.  A couple preaching opportunities came my way, but I wiggled out of both of them.

Late one night in late August or early September, I was working on something in the church office, when I was once again overwhelmed by a powerful feeling that God wanted me to preach.  So I told Him: Fine–I’m going to look up at the calendar hanging on the wall, and if October 17th (my one-year anniversary of being freed) is on a Sunday, and if Pastor McCready will let me preach that day, then I’ll do it.

So I looked up at the calendar and my heart sank when I saw that October 17th was in fact a Sunday.

Dang.

I contacted Pastor McCready the next day, and he was happy to schedule me to preach that day.

Double dang.

So I did it.  It was the most frightening experience I’ve ever had.  Two weeks before that Sunday, I could no longer sleep.  My stomach was all torn up.  My hands and forehead were in a constant cold sweat.  I wrote the sermon well in advance and rehearsed it over and over and over and over.  In fact, I knew it so well that Pastor McCready told me later on, “You know, I think you preached the same sermon word for word in both services!”  (We had two services, and I preached from a skeletal outline.)

The night before the BIG DAY I didn’t sleep a wink.  It was miserable.  I had a bad cold.  I got up early, ironed my clothes, and drove toward the church.  I counted the money in my wallet and wondered how far away I could drive.  I considered using my cold as an excuse to opt out.  I was actually still considering this when my dad called me on the church phone.  He was a huge encouragement.  I couldn’t believe he’d actually thought to call me that morning at the church!  He told me that having a cold would gain me sympathy from the congregation, which could lesson the terror of the experience.  His comments and his encouragement sealed the deal–there was no way I could turn back now.  If I did, I knew I’d probably be running for the rest of my life.

So I preached.  And I paced.  I probably walked five miles that morning in the first service alone.  A good friend of mine, George Van Hove, said that I did a good job and then jokingly moaned as he rubbed his neck.  Someone else told me that watching me was like watching a tennis match.

In the second service, I stood perfectly still.  Later someone commented that it looked like my shoes were nailed to the floor.

But I survived.  I had fully expected to die of a heart attack, or at least have a nervous breakdown.  I really did.  I honestly never expected to make it through the sermon.  But I had told God that I was going to be faithful to Him, even if it killed me.  I told Him that if He wanted this thing to actually work, He was going to have to do it.

He did it.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt as close to God as I did that morning.  Imagine if your legs were broken and you had someone carry you along.  You would be able to physically feel them carrying you in a way that you were unable to carry yourself.  That’s how strong the sensation was that morning of God carrying me along through the worship services.

And you know what?  That feeling has never gone away when I preach.  I’m still anxious every time I preach, and every time, I tell God that I want to be faithful to Him, but that this whole deal will fail miserably unless He makes it happen.

So far, He’s got a perfect record.   And it’s now eight years and counting.

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Published in: on October 17, 2007 at 1:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

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