As an intern with a college campus ministry, part of my job involved preaching several times a year for 30 minutes to an audience of about 100 students. And I was terrified out of my mind.
I hadn’t slept well for weeks because I felt so anxious. Every time I looked over my notes or imagined getting up to speak, my heart started racing and my throat tightened up. In hopes of getting out of this predicament, I considered calling Scott, my supervisor, with some sort of urgent reason that I wasn’t able to speak. I was sick in bed with mono? My relative had died, and I had to hop on a plane to get to the funeral? I had completely lost my voice from screaming during the previous weekend’s football game?
None of these made up stories seemed very believable, so I finally called Scott with the truth. “Scott, I think my sermon is going to be terrible, and I am freaked out.” Instead of telling me not to worry or reassuring me that I’d be great, Scott began to tell me about all the times during his first year as a staff intern that he felt inadequate. He described numerous moments of messing up, learning, and trying again. “You know what?” he said to me, “I’m certain that it won’t go perfectly. And that’s okay. You’ll survive, and learn, and get better.” When I heard that, some of my fear dissipated a little.
Two days later, I stood in front of the crowd, and delivered my first sermon. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. Scott was right - I survived. And over time and numerous other sermons, I learned and got better.