Preparing for Worship – Mary Kay Jackman, Wilshire member.
In my home office hangs a framed copy of Proverbs 3:5. You probably know it by heart, but in case you don’t, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” A colleague in the first-year writing program at SMU gave it to me. She knew how I worried and fretted about things that didn’t matter but seemed monumental to me. I planned my fall semester in July even after teaching the course several years. I over-prepared every lesson. I practiced explanations, wrote extensive notes, anticipated questions and possible responses. And every day as I walked from my office in Dallas Hall to the classroom, I prayed, “Dear God, please keep my heart, brain, eye, ear, and mouth connected,” so afraid I was of looking foolish and forgetful or sounding silly and stupid. In short, I was afraid of failure.
Ironically, after hours of preparation and sleepless nights, I entered the classroom and seldom looked at my notes. Instead, I looked in my students’ eyes, opened discussion and somehow knew how the lesson would play. Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Only when I became self-conscious did
I falter, feel the room shrinking and me sinking. Saint Matthew gives us a clear picture of what happens when our trust in the Lord falters. When Peter asks Jesus if he might walk on water, Jesus replies, “Come.” And Peter walks confidently toward Jesus until he allows his fear to surface, and he sinks into the sea.
It has taken years memorizing Proverbs 3:5, and searching scripture, to turn over my fear to God. I’ve always believed in God, but haven’t always trusted Him. In most situations, I relied on my own “understanding,” spending hours worrying about “getting it right.” At the last moments before class, I asked God to intervene in my teaching; and He did. God was there keeping fear away and the lesson relevant, offering students a safe place to learn without fear of failure.
Now, during these virulent days, classrooms and other gathering spaces remain mostly empty because we fear a killer illness. Fear separates us from each other, but not from God. In Joshua 1:9, we are told to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you [are].”