I stood at the front of the room, 20 eyes fixated on my every move. The speaker conference offered a critique group option to better your speaking abilities. It sounded like a good idea when I signed up for it. My heart beat in my ears, the heat flushed from my chest to my cheeks. What was I saying? Where are my hands? Who is smiling? When can I be done? How is this experience worse than speaking in front of 15,000 fans at the Pirates Faith Night?
Thoughts rushed through my mind as I continued with my prepared speech. Finally, the timer alarmed and I was done before I was finished. I took a deep breath and let it go slowly through pursed lips. The critiques were next. They started out well. The leader of the group was kind and suggested I be more animated, more me. There were great comments about the content, my speaking pace, and eye contact. The responses helped slow my anxious heart. Then, a comment that hit me like a speeding car slamming into a brick wall. “You need to loosen up and not look like you have it all together. Be real. You are not believable.”
When you know me, you realize I am about as real as it gets. I am vulnerable, open and transparent, usually sharing too many of my faults. The fellow speaker’s comment punched me in the gut, even though the leader had said much of the same. It was the way she looked at me with crossed arms and puckered lips. My rushing, anxious thoughts of failure were validated. My negative thoughts consumed me. I heard nothing else. Satan desires to consume us with anxiety. One comment said in two different ways sends us into a downward spiral of defeatism.
The Apostle Paul was always in spiritual warfare. He began his day by putting on the armor of God to guard against the assault. Satan was always trying to find a way to halt his work for God. It is the same with our daily lives. The enemy is always attempting to find a foothold that separates us from God.
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (2Corinthians 10: 3-4).
Our defense against the enemy is in the divine power of God. When we live in relationship with Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living within us. The Holy Spirit provides the capability to wage war with his mighty strength.
When my thoughts raced into the negative territory of self-destructing ideas, I knew I had to gain control. I couldn’t get it together at that moment. Repeating the critical words over and over in my mind: “Too put together.” “Not believable.” “Not real.” I couldn’t focus on the other speakers who were doing a great job. I sized myself up to them. I listened to the one who made adverse remarks to me, tell others how believable they were. I was close to tears when I retreated to my hotel room. As the door closed behind me, I fell to my knees praying for God to help me. My thoughts were unmanageable and took me to a place of wanting to shut down and never try speaking again. I tapped into the power of Christ in me.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” (2Corinthians 10:5).
God gives us tools to deal with spiritual attacks. They are for smashing negative thoughts, tearing down walls that separate us from God and to help draw us closer to being Christ-like.
I took the next thought that came and questioned the truth of it. ‘I am a failure.’ I am not a failure I am a work in progress. ‘My speech was horrible.’ No, the speech wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t perfect. ‘I was not believable.’ Was there something else said during the critique that validated that statement? No, it was one person making a comment that was a bit off-task, and I took personally. I received one comment by one of the ten people and let it destroy the entire process for me.
Once I took each thought captive, I was able to see that the enemy was at work. Satan made an insecure feeling I had thought myself and twisted it deep into my soul, stealing my joy. I used God’s tools to build a thought life of obedience and maturity, clinging to his guidance. Joy was restored.
Do you let your thoughts run away in a direction you didn’t plan? Do you stay there or do you redirect them to a joyful place? How do you take each thought captive?