I have been known to put a few carts before a few horses in my time. One particular instance was when I accepted the invitation to speak at Hearts at Home over ten years ago. This was an honor that I couldn’t imagine passing up, but there was one small hitch. I had only spoken publicly as an author three other times prior to my Hearts gig. Oh, and I was terrified of speaking in public. Oh, and I had found out that one of my classes had, I believe, four hundred women signed up.
But I barreled on through because as my publisher told me, “Christian authors also speak. It’s just what you need to do if you want your book to sell.” So I said yes to Hearts at Home and didn’t sleep very well for the month or so leading up to it.
I worked on my talk, prayed a lot, asked friends to pray, and tried to pretend I wasn’t predicting my doom. I drove myself to Bloomington, and relished being put up in a hotel and having an actual assistant to get me from class to class (she even carried an umbrella over my head and cut in the bathroom line for me!). I spoke, talked with readers, sold books, prayed and cried with audience members, and went home feeling like I could check that off my list of accomplishments. I knew I had been nervous and I feared it had shown through but I felt that God had still used my meager efforts, especially with the handful of sweet women who tearfully shared their stories and asked me to pray over them.
I moved back into my daily life and a few weeks later received an email with my speaker evaluations. Though some were kind, a few tore me to shreds. I was devastated. I forgot how cruel women could be, how unforgiving. I forgot the feelings of accomplishment and of it having been a divine appointment. I simply saw the words on the page that affirmed my biggest fears — that I had no business being a speaker, that I was clearly too nervous to do any good for anyone, that I should stick to writing, and even that, maybe not.
I had to drag myself to our couples’ small group later that night and the rejection followed me into the house like a cloud. “What’s wrong with you?” one of my guy friends asked. “Oh, well…I got my evaluations from Hearts at Home. They kinda all hated me,” I replied with my usual exaggeration.
And my friend said something to me that I have never forgotten ten years later.
“Let the dogs bark all they want…you have work to do.”
Those women were right. I was probably too nervous and too scared and perhaps shouldn’t have said yes so early in my speaking career to such a large audience. But that didn’t mean I needed to hang up my hat. Because my friend was even more right. I’ve gone on to speak over one hundred and fifty times since that scathing email, and speaking has become one of my favorite things to do on the planet.
I had work to do, and I still do, and I’m slowly working on focusing on the call of God over all the other voices.
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