I can remember sitting in class as every student took turns reading aloud. I would count down the number of students ahead of me until it was my turn to read. There were times I would get up and run to the restroom just to avoid reading in front of the class. I was always nervous to talk in front people because of my speech impediment. My stuttering did not consist of repetitive words but word blocks—an inability to get words out. That speech problem continued to persist throughout junior high, high school, my young adulthood and even still today. It would often reveal itself in the most critical situations. Going to job interviews, social gatherings and giving speeches in front of my college classrooms were amongst the situations I dreaded the most. It would remain a stronghold in my life for many years.
In the late summer of 2002, I moved to Florida to start a new chapter in my life. I started attending Bible college at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. I settled here without a job and very little money. I knew I needed to find a job; however, fear of showing up at interviews overwhelmed me. As soon as I would receive a phone call for a potential job, thoughts of failure filled my mind. I could already picture myself sitting in the interview room struggling to speak fluently. I soon found all of my fears coming back to haunt me. Over the next 11 months, I would attend interview after interview, only to come up short every single time. I really felt like my speech impediment was inhibiting me from getting a decent job. I became very discouraged as I watched others land all of the jobs I wanted. I began to lose hope. That fear and hopelessness would grow as I continued to struggle more and more in social settings. Friday night church singles meetings, small groups, teaching in children’s ministry and speaking over the phone were all major sources of anxiety for me.
I can recall sitting at the table at singles fellowship night, hoping no one would ask me to speak in front of the entire table. I would often become very nervous. My palms would begin to sweat and my heart would pound double-time. Many times people would approach me to initiate conversation, only to discover it would take me two hours just to spit two words out of my mouth. As my struggles in conversation continued, I noticed people began to blow me off. It was frustrating to know that I always had more to talk about but could not get the words out. As a result, people would not hear what I had to say and were unable to really get to know me; the real me. As my frustrations increased, I soon found myself staying home more often. I would often receive invitations to hang out and meet new people; however, I was always afraid that people would notice my speech impediment. At the time, I would have much rather stayed at home than experience that kind of rejection. My decision to disengage myself from people actually made things worse. I had become more frustrated, lonely and even angry at God—almost to the point of giving up.
I was feeling so insufficient that I really did not know what to do anymore. I can honestly say, I tried many different things to help get rid of my speech impediment, but nothing seemed to work. I went through years of therapy sessions, took pills for months, but still my stuttering persisted. So I began to seek the counsel of Christian friends, church staff members and a pastor friend of mine. They reminded me that we all have strengths and weaknesses. We all have an area or two where we lack the ability to perform well. People told me that eventually I would just have to accept things as they are. There is an old saying that goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. So I pondered on everything people told me. I began to meditate on scripture. One of the two scriptures that really helped me was 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, where Paul writes about his “thorn in his flesh,” “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’” Whatever Paul’s weakness was, God used to demonstrate His mighty power. Paul goes on to say how he was glad to boast about his weakness, so that the power of Christ could work through him.
The other passage of scripture that stood out to me was Exodus 4:10-12. God had called Moses to go and speak before Pharaoh; however, Moses contended with God and used his apparent speech problem as an excuse not to go. Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak … now go, I will be with as you speak (NLT)? Two things that Moses had already envisioned were failure and rejection. As mentioned earlier, those were the same things I was experiencing. So, I really began to meditate on these two passages of scripture. I said to myself, “Here are two great men of the Bible who had major weaknesses and felt insufficient at the same time.” In further thought, I realized that they probably would not have arrived at the point of full dependency on God if He had not allowed those weaknesses in their lives.
I began to see parallels with their weaknesses and my own. I was insecure—always envisioning failure when it was time to step up to the plate and feeling insufficient in my weakness. Eventually I came to a crossroads. I could continue to feel sorry for myself for the rest of my life, or I could make the best out of what I had been given. With the help of God’s Word and counsel of well-seasoned Christians, I started to gain more confidence in myself. I began to come out of my shell and become more vulnerable. Although I still struggle with my speech at times, I have determined not to let fear grip my life any longer. I stopped worrying about what others thought of me. What was formerly a stronghold for most of my life had essentially become something really small in the end. My hope is that others who are bound by insecurities, low self-esteem or similar struggles can be encouraged by what God has done in my life.