What I Learned from the Worst Presentation of My Entire Career
As with almost every presentation I do, when I hopped in the car to leave my presentation last Sunday, the first thing I did was touch base with Kari. Her first question was, as usual, "How did it go?" This was the first time (in 26 years) my answer was, "Well...There are two answers to that question."
There's the "technical" answer and the "spiritual impact" answer.
- The technical answer: It was the worst presentation of my career.
- The spiritual impact answer: God did more than I could ask or imagine.
As someone who does one-man storytelling, where my "script" is word-for-word books of the Bible, forgetting my "lines" is pretty tragic to the performance.
I would love to say I forgot my lines, paused, regained my composure, and moved on. That would have made last Sunday an "okay" presentation (and similar to hundreds of other presentations over the last three decades).
Not one brain freeze...or even two. I had four. (You can see each painful one in the cringe-worthy video above.)
Oh...and that was in the second service. In the first service I had about 10. Yes...10 different times when my brain froze up so badly that I had to completely stop, walk back to the table, look up the section in my Bible, and keep going.
For those of you reading this who have done any stage acting at all, I apologize for dredging up your worst memories. Forgive me.
Twenty-six years. Thousands of presentations. This was the worst. (I can't even remember a close second.)
And I'm so glad it happened exactly as it did.
I can't tell you the number of extremely kind and gracious people who came up to me after the services with kind words, appreciation for my sermon after the presentation, and even several hugs.
But there are three conversations between the two services that left me grateful for my awful presentation.
A man several years my senior was the first to approach me after the first service. He said, "I'm really glad you messed up." (Uh...thank you?)
He went on to say, "I used to be an actor back in the day. The lines had to be perfect, or darn near it. I gave up on memorizing Scripture because I struggled to get it perfect...and I thought it had to be. After seeing you mess up so much - and realize the impact God's Word still had on me - I'm going to start up again. Thank you."
If my mistake can rekindle someone's passion about soaking in the Word - yes please!
As he walked away, a woman walked up and said, "I'm so glad you messed up." (Are you sensing a theme?)
"Every time you had to go back to your Bible, I was able to really reflect on what you had just been sharing. The Bible really came alive for me in a way it hasn't in a long time. Those pauses were exactly what I needed."
If my mistakes can draw someone more deeply into a conversation with the Author - yes please!
Another woman walked up a few minutes later and said, "I have something encouraging I want to share." While I was expecting some "That's ok" or "We really didn't notice much" that's not what she said.
She shared about how her small group had been talking a lot lately about the masks we wear and how frequently our egos get in the way of connection and relationships.
She shared about how my response to very public mistakes (after all, I was alone on stage in front of 600-800 people) impacted her. She shared how grateful she was that I didn't try to "cover" my mistakes. She shared how laughing at myself and responding with humility and humor encouraged her to do the same next time she made a public mistake. She shared how she would be telling this story a lot in the years to come.
If my mistakes can encourage someone to live more authentically, humbly, and freely - yes please!
Now, to be clear, I truly hope and pray that my next presentation goes much, much better.
But this time? I'm so grateful it was terrible.
"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
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