I’ve never talked about this before.
Ever since I was around 12 years old, I’ve had a slight speech impediment. It’s not noticeable in most situations, but there are times that I struggle with it more intensely. I can usually feel when it’s going to happen. I’m in a conversation and I anticipate the word coming out of my mouth. I do my best to make it happen, but often I lock up and just ...can’t ...seem ...to get it out. This is when the anxiety starts. My face often contorts in an effort to force the word out. My stomach gives a panicked jump and I try to cough or create some half way believable reason why I could not finish the sentence. I don’t think I’ve ever fooled anyone. My mom always use to say that my brain was just moving faster than my mouth could keep up. Whatever the science behind it, the reality is I live with it and I’ve always been very insecure about it.
Fast forward 16 years, I’m a preaching pastor. I talk for a living. The irony is not lost on me. I step up to the pulpit every week quite nervous that I’m going to lock up and look silly. It causes my anxiety to flair and I often worry that I’m not going to be able to get through certain words or phrases. I’ll even structure my notes in a way that avoids certain words I know I struggle with. Makes things interesting standing behind that pulpit. I’m never without fear in that specific arena.
I have often wondered why God would give me the position that He has. A calling that requires me to be speaking often, both to crowds and individuals. A calling that seemingly requires eloquence of words and clearness of speech. I often wonder why He would give me such a specific limitation in my communication while at the same time call me to preach and care for people.
I believe the Lord, in His grace, has answered this question for me in His Word. I also know there is a great part of me that is not happy with the answer.
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10
Now let me be clear, I am not comparing my simple speech impediment with the affliction of the Apostle Paul. That’s not the point. The point is this. My Father knows what I need. He knows where I lack and where I must be built up. He knows where I need a stronger reliance on Him and His grace. My Father knows where I need to be protected from myself and my propensity to boast in my gifts. He knows all these things because He made me, speech impediment and all.
When I step up to the pulpit, it is right that I’m aware of my inadequacies. It is right that I understand my limitations. I believe God has given me this limitation to remind me that the words I speak have nothing to do with my eloquence or word-smithing. The effectiveness of my words to God’s people does not rely upon my ability to be a perfect communicator. It has to do with being faithful. Faithful to preach the Gospel in and out of season. Faithful to show people the glory of Jesus and the change that He brings. Faithful to boast in my weakness so that the power of Christ may rest on me. The Spirit handles everything else.
I still get nervous, but I know the words are true. I know God’s Word never returns void. I know that through my weakness, Christ’s power will manifest through me. I know the Gospel is worth preaching, even if I sound like a fool doing it. Jesus gives me that hope. Jesus is worth the stuttering and the lock ups. Jesus is worth it all because Jesus is faithful.