In early February, while I was awaiting on my next assignment, I gave a speech at a club that was positively terrible – the speech, not the club, although I think the club had a little bit to do with how terribly the speech turned out.
About two years ago, at the request of an ex-colleague, I did a speech at that same club about the upheaval that had taken place in my life over the previous year or so. My ex-colleague thought that it would be a good motivational talk for the club members. Back then, I thought my speech was received well enough, but when I look back on it now, I wonder if I was fooling myself.
This time around, my ex-colleague asked me to do a part two to my previous speech, and talk about what I’ve been doing since that time. I figured that wouldn’t be too hard to do, so I put together a slide show filled with pictures of the last two years or so of my life, with the intention that I would talk through how I had gotten to this point, the experiences I’ve had in the intervening time, and what I’ve learned so far.
I have to say, I wasn’t impressed with the club even before I opened my mouth to start talking. Most of the members arrived late (the meeting time was pushed back by about 20 minutes because only about 5 persons had arrived by the appointed time); none of them, save one who was sitting beside me at the head table and the fellow who had invited me, even acknowledged my presence with a greeting or a nod; and based on the conversations and interactions I witnessed while they took care of club business before it was my turn to speak, I could tell that they weren’t the most mature group of young people.
So by the time I came up on the agenda, I was far less than impressed with them but I was prepared to knock their socks off with all the awesome experiences I’d had in the previous two years.
My presentation came off like a pompous travelogue and my audience were not at all impressed. They basically sat through my twenty-minute talk like lumps on a log, looking at me like they had no idea what I was talking about and like they wished I would hurry up and finish already. I got zero interest, energy or engagement from them. Still, I powered through and tried to deliver my message that change is difficult but embracing it can be the most rewarding experience of one’s life. They cared not one whit. When I was done, the only question one person had to ask was if I had used my redundancy money to help finance my travels. They totally missed the part where I prayer walked my way up Mount Kilimanjaro, rode an elephant, and watched volcanoes spit ash with my own two eyes.
After I was finished, they thanked me and presented me with a meaningless, framed certificate of appreciation for my positively awful speech. I left after the meeting was adjourned with only one of the club members – the young man who had invited me – bidding me thanks and farewell. The rest of them totally ignored me.
As I left the meeting, I felt somewhat affronted that these clueless twenty-somethings didn’t appreciate the awesomeness of my life’s journey over the past couple of years and that they didn’t have an understanding of the opportunity with which they had been presented to learn something great from me. But by the time I was driving away a couple of minutes later, I had come down off my prideful high horse and admitted to myself that my presentation style hadn’t been appropriate to the audience – I had thought my brilliant photos would lead the way and capture their attention but I think they hindered instead – and my talk came off like an extended boast instead of as a testimony to God’s grace and mercy in my life.
By the next morning, my failure of the evening before was still bothering me. It bothered me because I felt that I hadn’t done God’s story of my life justice in the telling and that I had missed a golden opportunity to impart some uplifting life truths to those young people. I felt that, despite the seemingly natural lack of interest from the group, I had not given them a reason to be interested. I do think that they were the wrong group for my story – they don’t care about redundancies and called-off weddings and loss of position and possessions. But I wanted to rectify my shortcoming, I wanted the satisfaction of knowing that I could deliver my story coherently, and I wanted to be prepared for the next time God called on me to tell it.
That’s how the idea for this series was born. It’s the result of that quiet failure in front of fifteen service club members in New Kingston. So over the next several posts, I will tell you, my loyal readers, the story of how my life started to change radically just over two years ago and how I got to the point I’m at now. Hopefully, I’ll do a better job writing it than I did speaking it.