Shifting the Focus

Dr. Riley, Dr. Major and Ms. Thomas said “We would like to hire you but you have to teach a class or two of speech.”

“I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” [from Exodus 4:10]

That is what Moses said when God spoke to him via the burning bush. Moses did not desire to be the spokesperson for the Israelites.

When my potential bosses asked me if I could to teach speech, I did not hesitate.  I just said yes.  I was desperate for a job in a community college.

Over the years as I took up the mantle of the English/speech instructor, I began to like speaking more and more. Like Moses, I truly was a bit reluctant to be a speaker in the beginning.  It meant I would have to immediately go back to graduate school and take Master’s level classes in speech.

I also had something else against me. I was not a big fan of the public speech.  I could teach English and felt comfortable in front of students because I felt I knew a lot more about English than they did.

With speech, the subject was different. Constructing something for people to hear about a subject I had not mastered meant I had to work up new material, learn how to present it and conquer stage fright!

In my beginnings I just worked hard to be the best speech teacher I could and I volunteered to speak wherever I could. I had some rocky experiences to overcome from earlier in my life, times when I had failed as a speaker.  That was my basis for my stage fright.  I remembered how I had done so poorly and how I perceived my audience as a threat.  I assumed all audiences were judging me harshly.  They scared me.

What did God tell Moses about his reluctance to speak?

God told Him he could do it. From the Website “Moses needed to focus on God, not himself. The Bible says that if God is for you, no one can stand against you! (Romans 8:31) God was with Moses, and that was enough. God told Moses that He would make the elders of Israel listen. God also said that the people in Egypt would treat him in a kind way. God promised Moses that He would do miracles along the way to prove His power and might to the people. Moses heard all the wonderful things that God was saying, but still in his heart, he wondered: ‘What if no one believes me?’”

Eventually Moses learned to take God at his word. Moses drew from God’s power to lead his people.  Moses was a prime example of God speaking through people.

Me, I tried to do it on my own. All those times I volunteered to speak were stepping stones.  I learned from every stumble.  Since I did not know God in those days, I rarely prayed for God to help me.  It was all about the audience and me.  I am sure God was there when I spoke but I never called on God for help in the speaking process.

I got very good at the mechanics of writing speeches, the analysis of audiences, the process of practicing speeches and the adapting of speeches “on the fly” as I delivered them.

That was then; this is now.

Now, I have a thing I do in the process of working on material I am presenting to people.

I pray.

I pray that the Lord can use my words to touch the heart of a listener. I rarely have an opportunity to talk about some of the subjects I used to address.  Today I am a teacher of an adult Sunday School class, I read Scripture for Church and pray invocations, I make announcements in church.  Occasionally I teach a class on some Bible related topic.

I pray.

I come in contact with people who need a good word, they are seeking the Lord or they are hurting.   Sometimes I find myself with people who have serious doubts about God.  I find myself not only praying for the right words to come but I want my actions to reflect God’s love.

Truly, actions speak louder than words. If you want to make a non-believer out of a believer all you have to do is say “I am a Christian” and show them you are not.

They will not believe a word you are saying.

I am not deserving to be a co-laborer of God but that is the goal I have for life. Dr. Willard says that God speaking through human beings is “best suited to His purposes because it most fully engages the faculties of free, intelligent beings who are socially interacting with agape love in the world of God as His co-laborers.”

I don’t know what Moses felt when he protested to God saying he was not eloquent, slow of speech and slow of tongue but I do know how he conquered his fear of speaking. It was not through learning the mechanics of speaking.

It was through listening to God.

It was through believing God.

It was through developing his faith.

It was through prayer.

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