I never understood the advice on public speaking about imagining your audience in their underwear. Maybe it’s because I don’t multitask well but I can’t imagine talking about God’s mercy while also trying to focus on an array of undergarments. Besides, it’s just creepy. While the intent may be to make the speaker more comfortable, I can’t think of anything more uncomfortable than a room full of people wearing only bras and briefs.
I considered the absurdity of that advice while trying to identify what would make me most nervous about public speaking. I figured if I addressed any unease, I would be better prepared. I wasn’t overly concerned about a word stumble and since I fell on my face in Kindergarten, I figured I had gotten that out of the way. What I realized made me the most nervous was that I would hurry through, wish the moment away, and just get it done. The worst thing that could happen would be that I would miss my own talk by not embracing every moment with my fully clothed audience. It is a gift to speak about mercy. I wanted to be present. I wanted to experience the joy of it.
It made me realize how often in life I have shrunk from the fullness that God created. I have held back. Blended in. Been too careful. Too many times, I have listened to fear over the only one who can deliver me from it. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,” (Psalm 18:2). I’ve always had a relationship with fear. Maybe on some level, I thought if I kept it close, it would keep me safe. But fear doesn’t keep us safe, it keeps us small. It keeps us living in the shadows when God has called us into his light. By trading fear for trust in God we can live in the freedom of his truth. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety,” (Psalm 4:8). With God, we don’t need to be afraid. He is strong enough to carry us through our suffering and merciful enough to heal our hurts. Having a relationship with him doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen. It doesn’t mean that we won’t fall on our face or some creepy person won’t picture us in our underwear. It just means that with him, through him, fear is a farce of the devil’s making. We don’t need strategies and sayings to make us courageous. We simply need to trust that God has us in the right place to carry out his plan in our lives.