Last night was the first night of the eleventh semester for Embrace Grace in Southlake. It was the first night of my second semester co-leading with some amazing women on this Embrace Grace team. Although I have shared my testimony several different times with Embrace Grace classes prior to joining their leadership team, it never gets old. I know God gets excited to encourage the hungry hearts with the story He’s given me just the same each time I stand up to share. But I still hear the same lies before, during, and after sharing my story.
I can write well. That is a strength I posses. I do not, however, speak nearly as well—especially in front of a room full of people. I do not have the ability to cull out, delete, rewrite, and reword each sentence to flow in just the way I would like. No matter how many times I try to practice or rehearse beforehand, I forget my format or bullet points as soon as I begin speaking. This only happens when I share my story. If I teach a topical subject, I can stay on task, but for whatever reason, telling about the life I have lived gets me jumbled, longwinded, and scatterbrained. But I believe I have pinpointed the culprit.
Vulnerability. It is a scary thing. Baring your soul to a room of 30 or so people is not for the faint of heart. And it is just like the enemy to lie to us in areas where we are already uneasy. If he whispered outlandish things in my ear I could easily dispute them. But he slithers into those places I have already doubted, camouflaging himself with my very own critical thoughts; his presence magnifies them.
You’re talking too fast… No one is listening… You shared too many details, and everyone tuned you out… You’ll never be able to tell your story eloquently enough, so you should just ask not to share next semester.
All of those things to a minor degree I have thought of myself. But as the devil coincides with each of them, my courage to be vulnerable weakens.
After I shared and our class ended last night, I began confiding in a friend about my criticisms toward my inability to concisely share my testimony. Before I could even finish my first sentence her eyes gestured for me to turn around. Behind me stood a precious girl, with the most perfectly round baby-belly-bump extending from her hot pink t-shirt. She was standing so silently, waiting so patiently behind me, I had not even known she was there as I had begun grumbling about my own insecurity. With complete candor she began sharing pieces of her story leading to her unplanned pregnancy. I did not even know her name before she trusted me with pieces of her life and heart. She must have told me five times how she was teary listening to me speak, because of her disbelief that any other girl could have related to certain specifics of her past. Not only was I filled with joy she felt so comfortable on the first night to approach any leader, especially me, and share personal details, but I knew even my shaky vulnerability had inspired her to do so.
Replaying all of the new, unsure faces seated around the room last night, I know there is considerable uncertainty at this time in each of the girl’s lives; so many questions about pregnancy, mothering, relationships, and much more. The transformation in the girls, physically, emotionally, and spiritually is always riveting to watch as their hearts evolve throughout the semester, but I feel a heightened attention to being a vulnerable leader is key this semester; with this group of girls, perhaps more than other semesters past.
Just like the easily believable lies I hear when I share my testimony with the new room full of girls, the enemy is also whispering to them about attending Embrace Grace, about their situations, and about each sentence we loose from our lips to them during the semester. I believe as a whole and individually our leaders are being called into a semester of heightened exposure—an in-depth sharing of our own lives and lessons. Each girl we encounter weekly needs to hear more than teaching and encouraging words from our lips, but heartfelt empathy and stories of our own experience to match.
During and after my unplanned pregnancy, my identity and heart were not changed until The Relater bared His very own heart to me in the midst of my mess. Only through the relating of Jesus’ heart to mine—His struggles to my own—did I undergo supernatural healing and transformation. We are to be His hands and feet, most accurately depicting His heart; representing His understanding for our human condition whilst magnifying the welcoming of forgiveness and responsiveness of His love. There are people who need to hear our words birthed from changed hearts and lives only we have lived, and the love that embraced us thereafter. Perhaps we will feel like a coal-like crumble, unpolished and unqualified, sharing intimate details with others, but the vulnerability of our uncovered hearts will shine like the brilliant glory of His work beneath our very humanness.
My speaking and sharing of my story is a little rusty, with much needed touch-ups, yes. Being vulnerable challenges me. I feel frazzled and uncomfortable divulging unfavorable details of my past. Staring into the eyes of faces knowing nothing about me, but the verbosity of my speaking skills does not equate to sharing personal experience via keyboard and LED screen—hearing positive feedback, if any, and otherwise hoping naysayers comment not. However, while the devil tries to attack me with common insecurities, I will fight back with the age-old obedience of sharing what Jesus has done in my heart and life (Revelation 12:11). My defense might look and sound with a quivering voice and jumbled words on the outside, but a mighty fortress stands undisturbed within, as my God upholds my exposed heart for those to see His indisputable works on display.
And He said to me, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
by Jacqueline Fox