Honestly, when our pastor announced that we’d study Romans for fifteen weeks, spring straight through summer, I felt more apprehension than enthusiasm. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome contains some of my favorite verses in Scripture but, as a book, it has not been my favorite. Paul’s convoluted courtroom argument hurts my brain.
So when our pastor also invited me to take a turn in the pulpit, my first in the ten years we’ve been in this congregation, I uttered a flattered maybe.
When I prayerfully read my text, Romans 5:1-11, I thought, Well, huh, maybe… But I would need the right story, the perfect illustration.
The next day, at a ministry meeting, the right story materialized. The encouragement I needed to say yes.
I put aside all other creative projects and spent a month working on a sermon. Day 1 I waffled. Why had I said yes? I have taught but I haven’t preached in years. I’ve been trained for this (that seminary degree accounts for something), but I’m rusty. For the love, pastors make it look easy but preaching is hard work!
Prone to dramatics, I had to silence the voices: the “You’re not good enough—what if you blow it?” crazy. Not one for personal political statements, I never want to be “The Woman” in the pulpit, so I fought against that added pressure. I prayed myself out of my tizzy tendency.
And then God Showed Up:
Already one story had presented itself. Others flooded my sight.
Out of the blue, a friend texted how she has grown spiritually for my presence in her life.
Another friend posted a workplace video about using “your unique fingerprint” to imprint your business, and how people long for your unique fingerprint–encouragement that I would preach this passage with my unique voice, the same and yet differently than any other preacher.
I read and studied and took notes. I put all the notes away, went back to the passage, and started writing. And what God wanted me to say flowed from my head and heart through my fingers, filtered by the voice that would speak it.
Pastors all around the world preach every Sunday. In some ways, it’s no big deal. And yet this was, for me, a very big deal. I had the privilege to boast about God. And so I did.
In addition, I wrote our small group Bible study guides for Romans 1-8 all spring-summer long. Fifteen weeks of Bible study. One of my favorite work tasks, we usually take a welcome summer break. But since this series began in spring, we continued the study guides for the groups who would meet during summer. I hope groups/people used them but, even if not, I wrote them. This biblical book that previously had me stymied, well, God showed up. The guides seemed to almost write themselves, we trust because the Spirit flowed.
This summer God has broken a barrier I hadn’t realized I’d constructed. For one who loves reading, studying, discussing, and writing about the Bible, there remained a book I wouldn’t willingly touch. Until I was required to. Once again, He proved Himself faithful. “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Thank God He helped me conquer Romans!