I don’t really remember my first talk in junior Sunday School. I’ve been told that I froze at the pulpit, went pale in the face, and couldn’t get out a word. My dad came up beside me, trying to convince me to speak the words I had worked so hard to prepare and memorize. But I was one small four-year-old with many faces looking up expectantly. All this fledgling introvert wanted was to hide away among her classmates. But a loving determined mother with a little down-home wisdom offered this introvert a three-step program, adapted specifically for her as the one deeply loved and in need of help.
Choose Your Listener
Considering my first experience as the one behind the podium, I’m not sure when I began speaking publicly with confidence. This developed as my mother taught her three-step strategy:
- Choose the one person in the audience you will look at as you speak.
- Focus only on that person.
- Speak directly to the individual, with confidence and clarity.
Yet today as a professor, I often approach a lectern trying to calm a pounding heart, turning tummy, and sweating palms. As I wrap up another semester of teaching, I am longing for rest and quiet, retreating gratefully from the front of the room.
I love teaching, but I’m still comfortable as an introvert suited to quiet, back rows.
But reflecting on my speaker phobia, I discover that I’m learning to harness divine gifts with desire to share those gifts to glorify God in ways I cannot do from the back row.
Choose Your Challenge
In a recent conference address, Michelle Craig of the Young Women general presidency shared a powerful insight:
I am learning that Heavenly Father is more interested in my growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ than He is with my comfort. I may not always want it to be that way—but it is!1
Uncomfortable contexts press us onward to grow. Perhaps we introverts might take some quiet time to contemplate the growth we see in ourselves.
Do we now step willingly up to a podium and address not only the one focus person but many persons who can learn and grow from our message? If we have performance anxiety, do we focus on the music we love and those we want to share it with?—people we want to and know we can love.
Do we think with admiration and respect of brave disciples who navigated past comfort to growth? As we face difficult challenges within our own sphere, do we look to the many and serve God, or do we focus only on ourselves?
Remember God’s Chosen
Mary was a most virtuous woman of humble circumstances. She was willing to deliver her holy child in a stable. Might she have preferred private places where she could have avoided greeting groups of people she did not know?
But Mary was to serve a higher and holier mission. Her focus was on Jesus. He was the one who would bring life, light, and salvation to the world. Mary’s comfort was not an issue.
Joseph was trusted as the mortal guardian of Jesus Christ. Perhaps he would have been comfortable with the quiet, creative labor of his carpenter shop.
But Joseph was the one called to receive revelation and act to protect the Savior of the world. The comfort of a modest shop was not Joseph’s role.
The shepherds were watching over the vulnerable sheep, peaceful and calm—but not for long. Brilliant lights, the Angel Gabriel, and joyful angel voices called them as witnesses of the birth of God’s son, the Savior of the World.2
The shepherds didn’t seem to wonder if their witness would be uncomfortable. To be among those called took precedence over everything.With no hesitation, they hastened to find the babe.
Participants in the adoration of nativity responded by adapting the three-step process: (a) choosing where to direct attention, (b) focusing on what was needed, and (c) acting with confidence and clarity.
Any of us might be the one with a role affecting lives of an incalculable number of others. In our temporary fallen state, we are blessed with opportunities to help sisters and brothers progress toward perfection.
Perhaps this Christmas, as we choose to recognize and focus on the Holy Child, seeking as disciples to connect with and serve the master teacher and healer, we may find that discipleship is not meant to be comfortable.
But we strive to claim the sure promise: “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18). As we search, we experiences progress and growth from our effort. Uncomfortable times draw out the divine within us—connecting us to our loved and loving Savior Jesus Christ.