9th grade English class. I remember it like it was yesterday. My worst nightmare came true. The teacher looked around the room. “She’s going to call on me. I know it. I’m doomed,” I thought to myself.
Sure enough. “Heath, what do you think?” the teacher asked. A lump the size of California formed in my throat. My heart beat wildly. It felt like I’d been transported to a sauna.
Reluctantly, I opened my mouth. “I, I, I, I…” “Ba, Ba, Ba…” “Co, Co, Co…”
Here’s the thing: I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I just couldn’t say it. I was a stutterer. All eyes were on me. Some kids laughed. Others mocked. 30 seconds felt like 30 hours. I tried starting with different words, “Ra, Ra, Ra…” “Di, Di, Di…” But, to no avail.
Sensing the reaction of the room, my teacher rescued me from my misery, “I’ll come back to you Heath. Does anyone else want to share?”
So I asked myself, “Did that really happen?” If there was a hole I would’ve crawled in it and never come out.
Looking back on those years, my speech impediment sucked the self-esteem right out of me. I developed an “I can’t” and “I will never” mentality. I didn’t make eye contact. I was passive and kind of a wimp. I felt like a pushover. I was constantly worried about what others thought of me. Trapped, I was behind bars with no way out. And worst of all, I stopped dreaming. I stopped imagining. I stopped trying.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’ve been there. Or are still there. So I ask – What is your “stutter”? What is that one thing you use as an excuse not to step out and live your dream? Complete the sentence: If I didn’t have _______________, or If I could just have ____________, I would ____________________.
Maybe it’s relational. Maybe it’s financial. Maybe it’s physical. Maybe it’s spiritual.
Moses and His Stutter
For forty years, Moses allowed the disappointments of his past to define his destiny. And it was no clearer than when God asked him to go back to Egypt, talk to Pharaoh, and set his people free.
Moses likely thought, “But God, I’m washed up. My prime is long past. I’m a lowly shepherd. I’m forgotten. I’m a murderer. I’m a coward.”
And then he said to the Lord, “…I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
The Lord said to him,
“Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:10-12).
Focusing on God
The number one reason we don’t step out and live our dream is this: We focus too much on our ability and not enough on God’s ability. You see, when we say “But I am not,” He says “But I am.”
You know the rest of the story. God uses Moses to set the people free and lead them to the Promised Land. So maybe our past shouldn’t define us, but rather refine us. Maybe our excuse is actually a gift— an opportunity for God’s power to be made perfect in our weakness. Maybe the “thorn in our side” is a blessing in disguise, meant to remind us of our need for God.
The rest of my story is quite amazing actually. In college, I majored in Communications (Oral Rhetoric). Over the last 15 years, God has given me the opportunity to preach at youth groups, camps, chapels, Sunday services, and weddings. And get this: I rarely stutter. As I look back on my journey, my stutter was at its worst when I focused on myself. When I started to grow in my relationship with God, my focus shifted from the messenger (me) to the message (God).
So what is stuttering your dream? Your reason to not be used by God? May we have confidence not in ourselves, but in God. May we deny ourselves and follow the One who never made excuses.
May we trust the One who replaces our deficiency with His all-sufficiency. And as we stutter our way through life, may we believe in the One who makes all things possible.
*If you haven’t already, watch “The King’s Speech” –the inspiring story of King George VI and how he overcame a stutter to realize his dream.