It wasn’t intentional, but I ended up preaching a sermon.
A couple months ago, one of the newer ministers at my church asked if I would “speak” at the Women’s Day program being held. It must have been a rather strong sermon that had me feeling very holy or something because for some odd reason I answered instantly and answered in the affirmative. The minister told that she’d give me some things that I could use when I spoke and this gave me some comfort. It wasn’t going to be a sermon. Just me, leading the event as a “speaker”.
Well, this past Saturday, I spoke. I’d procrastinated until the last possible moment in hopes that the notes the minister had for me were all I really needed and that I’d be able to simply read her notes verbatim and all would be well. But, upon reading the notes the night prior, I found that I didn’t have as much to go on as I’d hoped. When I’d leafed through them sporadically over the past few weeks, it seemed like I had what I needed, but when crunch time hit, I had no idea how I was going to deliver any sort of message based on what I had.
I called the minister trying to hide my panic as much as possible and expressed some concern interweaved with my questions. Are these all the notes? Am I Mistress of Ceremonies, or am I just give a brief talk? How long am I supposed to speak? Thirty whole minutes?? I tried to stretch out the notes with all the Christianity I could muster, but I simply didn’t have it. So, I did what I often do in times of trouble and I called my mother.
I opened the door for her to begin by lamenting that she was, indeed, correct in her past surmising that I would find myself the Friday prior to the event trying to pull something together, but as she spoke about different things I could do, I started to write. I wrote. I wrote and when I hit a block, I’d Google a bit of scripture, copy some lines from some other preacher’s texts, and then I wrote some more. Some time after I’d hung up with my mother, I had something that would at least last me about 15 minutes or so and sounded like something that would come from me.
Saturday morning found me shaken and nervous. I hadn’t done my best, but I figured if all else failed, perhaps I’d bomb so hard that I wouldn’t be asked to speak at any other engagements. The ladies enjoyed a nice breakfast (I only pecked because there was meat in everything, but that was expected), and for a moment, I even hoped that the minister would sense my unprepared nervousness and forgo calling “the speaker” for the event. Alas, she took the podium and invited me to come forward.
I stood in front of a small gathering of the women of my church, including some family, one of our pastors, and actual ministers, and I gave up a quick prayer…and then I was saying the last few words I’d prepared. I suppose I can say the Spirit took over and just led the message through me, but all I know for certain is that it seemed to go well. There were hugs abound and even a few tears as I made my way back to my seat and, throughout the rest of the event, so many others came up to me saying that they were so proud of how far I’ve come over the years. Then the were a few comments about “Minister Dorienne” which, had I felt like I’d done my absolute best, or that I’d been in any way called, I might have welcomed. Instead, I felt…I’m not even sure how to articulate it; confusion, trepidation, full-on imposter syndrome? The list goes on.
I think what’s presenting as concern is that I don’t see myself as a preacher. I’m not sure that I want to go into the ministry. Yes, I regularly attend church and bible study, and I sing in the choir, and I tithe, but that’s just doing the basics to me. I attend the weekly Sunday School teacher’s meeting for my mother’s church because, honestly, I just can’t get to my own church on time for Sunday School. In fact, I hardly make it to Sunday morning service on time each week; it’s a running joke about how I’m always late! And, yes, I used a long-standing command of the written word to speak to the women of my church, but that was more me being a writer and knowing my “audience” than anything holy.
Days later questions bombard me to the point I find it hard to think of much else. Is this really what the Lord wants me to do? And, if it is, then why? I don’t think I’m a good example for anyone to follow. The fact that I’ve not ended a black American woman statistic has more to do with my current aversion to intimacy than anything holy in my character. I curse, often, mainly in just texts, but it happens a lot. I’ve never been married and I don’t have kids and I’m unsure that I’ll even reach a point in my life when I’ll even want those things. I regularly turn away from all the pinnacles of a preacher’s life. The last time I read the words that a woman should obey her husband, my first thought was that if I want to retain my independence, that means I shouldn’t get married.
Is it so hard to just want to write? Am I ignoring a call? Should I hold my breath and wait to get swallowed up by Jonah’s whale of a life experience if I reject this alleged call? And, then why me? Why should the person who has the least in common with those who preach be one who does? Who would even listen to me if I tried? I get most excited on Instagram when my favorite drag queens post; am I expected to give sermons to drag queens so that they know they can remain who they are and still know God loves them? I have nothing! Nothing but questions.
The more I let others listen to the recording, the more I hear the same words about gifts and callings, but all I really want to do is be a participant who writes. Is it so wrong to just be a participant? Do I have to answer for just living?
Motivation for other types of writing has dwindled to a slow trickle, despite managing to write at least 500 words daily since Easter (save a single day spent trying to survive self-provided food poisoning). Part of me wonders whether I’m facing some punishment for turning away from something I should embrace, while the more conservative part me of me recalls how often I’d attempted to lead Sunday School classes as a teacher years ago while having only read the lesson minutes prior to class starting.
Anyhoo… I’m likely causing myself a lot of worry over nothing. I think when people are called, they are called. They know it, they feel it, they embrace it. As for myself, I’m just trying to live. I just want to use writing as the catharsis it is and just try to live, which is more than I can say I’ve wanted over the years. So, with all of that out my head and onto the page, onward and upward.