I never thought I could speak in public. I hated speaking in public. I was the epitome of shy kid: that speaking assignment in seventh grade where we had to get up in front of the class and talk for four minutes was awful.
(You know it was almost impossible when your seventh grade classmates who hate you applaud and cheer for you when you’re done. Sympathy lives.)
I’ve been out of the pulpit for a while now. But at my last settlement I spoke to seventy or eighty people every Sunday. The position before that was two seatings of 400-500.
That’s not a typo.
And I loved it.
Yes of course, some of this is training and having something to say.
But the kick in the ass that got me from zero to basic presentation?
Sexuality education. No joke.
Let me tell you a story: I’m in eighth grade. Long hair pulled back in a braid. Braces, I think. Shy, shy, shy. Big glasses. Smart. Depressed. Withdrawn. Two close friends and the rest of the world thinks I’m invisible.
Unitarian Universalist church had already started to save me. I had more hope and connection in youth group, more interesting conversations, frankly, more fun there than anywhere else.
Then we started sex ed. In church. (PSA: They still do it. Now it’s called OWL and every single kid should have the chance. UUA and UCC churches offer it, but it’s also out there in some cities as an outreach program.)
So I’m sitting there with some kids I don’t know particularly well, and we’re going to spend a semester of church school talking about sex. I’m well-read but intrigued. And by the end of the semester I am thoroughly impressed. We have practice, information, and training in how to be with sexuality, make our own decisions, talk about what we want and need, set boundaries and limits, understand and provide (or not) consent, PLUS all the plumbing and mechanics. It is 1989. We have talked about HIV/AIDS and about being gay/lesbian/bisexual and even touched on transgender identities.
For possibly the first time in my life, I am totally inspired. I want to DO this. I want to TEACH this. I want to BE PART OF THIS BECAUSE HOLYSHIT IT CHANGED MY LIFE. (I had no idea how much it had changed my life.)
And I resolved, then and there, to get trained to teach AYS when I was old enough to do so.
Meanwhile I ended up becoming the go-to information source in my high school.
And then I went to UU summer camp and decided I wanted a youth group that did conferences and stuff…but I was the only one with the information. So I learned to lead. Training, modeling, mentoring, fumbling, but I learned and was encouraged and learned and was encouraged…
and then I was old enough. And I got trained.
And then when they updated the AYS program to OWL I got trained again. By that time I was in seminary.
And then I learned to preach. And the rest is kind of history.
But here’s the bottom line: if you want to break through an old limit, there is nothing (NOTHING) that beats passion for getting you there. When I was talking about sex I wasn’t thinking about what people were thinking. I was thinking, “Oh my god, you need this information. You needed it last week. And I’m the only one who can give it to you right now. Listen up, this is important.”
What do only you have to give? Give it. The world needs it. Right now.