I was a little girl who loved to dance, sing and act. I grew up in the kind of town where the population tripled in the summer. It was an idyllic place to have a summer home. People from ‘the big city’ would come down to spend their weekends on our lakes and enjoy the life of a small town. I eagerly looked forward to summers, because along with the tourists came touring companies. They would perform plays, concerts, dance shows and other acts. Some of these acts were specifically for children. I loved it! Occasionally I would get to be on stage with my children’s choir or dance studio. For me, this was like performing on Broadway. I loved it and I knew how to ham it up and sell a crowd. If I wasn’t officially on the stage, you can imagine I was singing my little heart out in the audience. I came alive watching and performing in these shows.
At one of these summer concerts, I was standing on a chair singing and acting out the motions when my brother, the introvert, could take it no longer. He pulled my pant leg down and looked at me, embarrassed. “Stop it, people are looking at you!” He was embarrassed and ashamed of me. I can’t say that was the exact moment that I began to think my gregarious personality was ‘too much,’ but somewhere a voice crept in that says, “stop it, people are looking at you!” My brother is one of my biggest supporters, so he meant no harm, he was just tired of being ‘that kid’s’ brother. Who can blame him?
That voice has made many appearances in my life. I remember being in sixth grade and doing our school’s musical. I was excited to get the lead as Maid Marion, but the shame of being center stage also crept in. I felt both the thrill of performing and the fear that to perform was to be attention seeking and not okay. I remember being devastated when one of the teachers in charge of the show declared, “…of course Sarah would be the lead, she is our little prima donna.” I had no idea what that meant, but to me it was a giant “Stop it, people are looking at you!” Somehow the thing that made me come alive also made me feel ashamed.
That voice follows me even today. I have a deep passion for and come alive the most when I am preaching or giving a message. I know that I was made to communicate. That is how God created me – that little girl standing on the chair was desperately trying to communicate, to bring joy and be a part of it. From writing to speaking, it is when I am happiest. Most people’s biggest fear is one of my greatest joys.
At a dinner party, I shared how I am excited for some upcoming speaking engagements. I also shared how difficult it has been to create so much content and learn it along side my hectic pastor’s schedule. My friend, who isn’t a church person per se but has been a huge supporter and attends anytime I have something, laughed and said, “Sarah you were born to do this… you could just get up there with no notes and talk for an hour and we would all be listening and captivated – it’s who you are.” It is who I am and what God made me to do. She may not have said those words, but she affirmed that in me. She has often shared with me that she is encouraged and interested in this faith that I talk about.
But that voice haunts me. I was sharing with a group of people why I take time to go and share around the country and why I love speaking to audiences beyond my local congregation. Someone, meaning no harm, flippantly said, “oh so you want to be one of those celebrity pastors.” What I heard was “Stop it, people are looking at you!” That voice is one of the reasons it took me so long to write a blog. I didn’t want people to think I wanted to be the center of attention.
But slowly a new voice has crept in. I was talking with a mentor friend of mine and I shared my worries about becoming known as a pastor on a larger scale. I was worried that people would think of me as a self-promoting person. “Stop it, people are looking at you!” I was worried that it would become too much about me. He stopped me and said, “too much about you?” I shared some of the things people had said about celebrity pastors and how I didn’t want to be on that list. He said that celebrity pastors are doing the work they feel is most important, and who they are is part of that work and it is pointing people towards God. “Sarah,” he said, “Jesus was a person that people liked to be around – they wanted to know him, and through that they got to know God.” I have been thinking about that a lot. That is how God works – through people. People may not know God yet but they may want to know me, and that may lead to them wanting to know God. Today I am trying to hear the voice that I think is more like God’s voice
“Keep going, people are looking at you!”