I was shaking. That's what I remember. I brought my fingers to my face and stared at them, watching them tremble with a ferocity I hadn't seen before. I was working at a camp for the summer and I was about to step onto a wooden platform and speak to a hundred and thirty kids.
I was empty for awhile. It was as if my insides had been scooped out, my withering parts plucked away from within me. I felt the emptiness, a dry well that was deep and wide and lonely.
I wanted to be filled -- I’m always wanting to be filled. And this summer, I was feeling myself get filled up again. Slowly. Day after day, moment upon moment of having purpose, of speaking life, and I was filling up again.
But even though my soul was stocking up with long forsaken passion, my hands were still shaking.
I looked at my roommate, Leah. "I think I'm going to be sick."
"Why?" She asked kindly.
"I'm so nervous. I'm so scared."
"You've done this before. You'll be great. You love speaking."
"I'm terrified to talk to these kids -- and I'm speaking about being brave." The irony did not surprise me.
Leah smiled, like she knew it would all turn out fine. Like my worrying was for naught. "I'm praying for you right now, Aliza," she said softly. "Jesus will give you courage."
Leah taught me a lot of things this summer. She taught me prayer; she taught me to centre all of myself in Jesus.
So I took a deep breath and thanked her, willing my fingers to cease their quivering. I clutched my notes and Bible tight against my chest, the pungent aroma of bug spray and campfire discovering its way around me, and I walked up the grassy knoll and stared at the kids finding their spot at the bench of their choice.
We sang silly songs. Serious ones, too. I tried not to throw up. I took a deep breath. I asked Jesus to calm my nerves. I had spoken each Tuesday for five weeks, and every week I felt the same fear. Was I good enough? was I brave enough? was I the right girl to tell these kids about who God is? It felt like a sacred and important task. My soul was filling with passion, yes, but was I filling with adequacy?
I left the campfire site and went to a bonsai tree while they sang. I sat there quietly and begged Jesus to let the words be his and not mine.
As soon as my feet hit the platform, I felt peace. I looked at the hundred faces that stared up at me. They each held a story within them, and I had twenty minutes to explain the power of bravery, but more than that, the power of Jesus.
I told them they were brave.
I told them Jesus created them that way.
I told myself the same thing.
I spoke again the next three Tuesdays after that. Each time I spoke, I felt the same nervousness swell up from inside of me. But I chose brave, and I told the kids who sat in front me that they were brave as well. I believe this fully: when we choose brave, even in the midst of our fear and anxiety and feelings of insecurity, we can spur others to be brave too.
Leah spurred me on.
And, like the ripple effect bravery is, I spurred on the kids each Tuesday.
Who will you spur on? There's a whole world out there waiting.