Sometimes, the scariest thing about standing behind a pulpit isn't about what you're going to say (though in all fairness, I was worried that describing to the congregation all the horrible ways in which venom could kill them might be too much), but rather about who you know in the audience.
I experienced this anxiety when I first stood behind the pulpit of my home church, because preaching, for me, is a very personal and intimate experience. Often times, I'm sharing a glimpse of my faith with these people. And at my home church, while I love these people, and generally trust that they love me, there was significant fear. I was afraid that certain people in the congregation would be judging me. I was afraid that because I had grown up in this church, they'd all be thinking about what I was like way back when.
And I was really afraid that that one family in the church, that perfect family who always had it together and whose kids were total superstars, the family who never had a hair out of place, whose children are perfectly well behaved, polite, eloquent, and just plain perfect, just like their polite, eloquent perfect parents would be judging me, harshly, because I'm not always well behaved. I'm not always polite. I'm generally eloquent, but I'm not pretty. I'm not musically talented. And they knew me way back when. Would they ever see me as anything other than who I was? Would they ever actually see who I am?
I still find that family pretty intimidating. Not as much as I once did. I'm also fairly certain that they are not judging me. And I know that if they are, that is their problem, not mine. I have been called to ministry. I will answer that call and walk faithfully, preaching the sermon that I believe needs to be preached when and where I am asked to preach.
This morning, however, was a bit different. I was the pulpit supply at the church across the street. And I was terrified. I was scared to tears this morning about preaching at this church. I was terrified, because of that family in the pews.
That family is not the perfect family. Because their children are grown, and because I did not, largely, grow up in this church, I can't tell you that they were polite, well behaved, perfectly coiffed, eloquent, musically inclined, upstanding members of the church.
Actually, I can assure that this family is NOT perfect. Oh, no, Adolf and Eva are far from perfect. I know this because I lived with them. For about two months. When I was ten years old. They were my foster parents.
I know that calling them Adolf and Eva might seem extreme to some. But, really, this is nothing compared to the first long-term foster family with whom my siblings and I were placed. I like to refer to them as Joseph and Kato. Because, let's face it, that first family was evil personified. The second was leagues behind in their reign of terror.
And I knew they would be there, because Eva was set to be an usher. So, while it was terrifying to consider that I would be preaching in their church this morning, and they'd be there, I told myself that it could have been worse. I could have asked to preach at Joe and Kato's church. Still, I asked my younger brother to come, so I knew there was a friendly face in the crowd.
He did. There was. I made it through.
And all that fear was for nothing. Eva had to swap Sunday's. He was out of town, attending a conference. And Adolf? Well, she was in the nursery, and while the service is piped in on the sound system, I didn't actually have to see her while I preached.
It's the little graces in life.