My first impulse was to title this post “Naked and Afraid”. However it seems a certain reality TV show already pirated that phrase (Genesis 3:10). Not knowing the ramifications of pirating a pirate, I opted for modifying my original title.
Now for my story…
You know that dream where you’re on stage in front of a crowd of people and suddenly realize you’re naked? Well believe it or not, that actually happened to me —and that’s the honest truth. Well it’s a form of the truth anyway.
It was a few years ago that I found myself in a real-life version of that terrifying dream. I had been invited to speak at a women’s retreat to be held on beautiful Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint, Idaho. The venue was an old log chapel nestled in the small ski village atop the mountain overlooking pristine Lake Pend Oreille —one of the most picturesque settings in northern Idaho.
I was to present a series of five talks and the Lord had graciously spoken the title to my heart:
SWEET AROMA ~ The Fragrant Beauty of a Servant Heart©
Over the top with anticipation, I spent many evenings over the next few months with my Bible in front of me; concordances, lexicons, and other study helps strewn across my dining room table. Even more hours were invested in designing note sheets, posters and graphics for my presentations.
When that Friday night finally rolled around about fifty women gathered together for a weekend of Bible teaching, fellowship and refreshing. As I eagerly took to the stage for the first session, I had that something’s-not-right inkling in my gut. But with a chapel full of women waiting to begin there was no time to figure out what that something was.
I proceeded to the podium and opened my mouth to speak. But as the sound of my own voice filled my ears the “inkling” intensified to fear, and fear rapidly escalated to dread. There was no doubt in my mind that these were the same words I had spent months writing. Yet somehow they now echoed with a strange hollowness.
As words built into sentences and sentences expanded into paragraphs, my fear of calamity grew commensurately. I could almost see each syllable boomerang off the back wall, with absolutely no perceptible impact on my audience. The entire room seemed to reverberate with the vacuous rhetoric of my own thoughts.
I became acutely aware that the teaching I had so carefully crafted lacked power. And I knew there was only one explanation —the absence of the Holy Spirit. Without His anointing, my words were destined to be lifeless.
Now fully aware of the lack of spiritual covering, I felt utterly naked. Moreover, the more desperately I tried to cover my nakedness with a clever turn of a phrase, interesting anecdote, or humorous quip… the more exposed I felt.
Looking back on it there was no indication that anyone else was aware of my nakedness. The session ended, appropriate complements were paid, thanks were offered and the activity moved naturally into warm fellowship and camaraderie.
But that was of little comfort to me. I left the sanctuary and frantically bolted to my room. Closing the door behind me, I fell to my knees at the side of my bed and wept. I had spent weeks studying, outlining, writing and planning; but had failed to do the one thing upon which all else depended. I had failed to spend time in the Father’s presence and to ask Him to fill me with His Spirit, His power, and His grace.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:6
I was overwhelmed by the stark reality that I am nothing without Him. My most eloquent words, apart from Him, are tinkling brass. I had nothing to say that those women needed to hear. They needed what only the Father could give. What I needed was His forgiveness for presuming that even the best efforts of my flesh could impact hearts. I confessed that I had been arrogant in thinking I could accomplish through my own strength what was possible only through the Spirit.
So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 4:6
By His mercy, I entered the next session empowered and confident; because my confidence was rooted in Him alone. Of course, as you may have already guessed, He was faithful to provide those women what they came for. The remainder of the conference was incredible!!
As for me, I learned a poignant and unforgettable lesson that weekend. Never again do I wish to enter the ministry arena in the nakedness of my own flesh. I desire only to speak what He is speaking—words infused with the very breath of God.
Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth”. Jeremiah 1:9
When my words reflect His thoughts, His heart, and His love—they will not be in vain. They will bear sweet fruit, for His honor and His glory alone.