By Melanie Mar Chow
You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Acts 20:18-20 NRSV
The challenges of ministry can sometimes lead to feelings that God is very far away. Though public speaking is not one of my strengths, it is a key component of my job. Sometimes I experience fear in public speaking because I know that what I am saying isn’t something new or I’m afraid that people will think there is little value in what I say.
I have been journeying over the years with Asian American seminary friends who must take the dreaded class of Preaching. Why is it dreaded? Because on various levels it is hard to approach anticipated failure. My seminary professor noted that it is important before a sermon to envision yourself doing well. But the reality is that after translating text from Greek/Hebrew and crafting a sermon with personal testimonies, wit, and creativity, the dread of self-failure is huge. No matter how good God is and the reminder to perform for an audience of One, there are times when everyone tanks horribly. The challenge is to embrace failure knowing that God loves us and that it’s not about what I do. It’s also about embracing a deep faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are also those days that you don’t know what to say. You draw a blank, a “deer in headlights” moment. And though you are demanded a response, you cannot formulate fast enough the millions of thoughts that pass through your mind. So you freeze and either say something stupid or stay silent when something should have been said. But God’s love and care covers those moments. Though it seems like you may want to drop off the face of the earth, or you wish you had superhuman powers to poof you off to oblivion, God has a lesson for us if we can face God’s presence in our failures by employing humility.
But if we can regroup in the moment and cling to Jesus, that in itself will build victories. We also must admit that we will never be perfect due to our sinful nature and the sin of others whom we encounter. We will be judged and we will be ignored; we will fail and we will make gains. But the beauty of it all is that though we might fail, in Christ we are never a failure. Such a wonderful redemptive love we have in Jesus! We find hope to lift the failed moments from our minds. Because of the great love of Jesus and His death on the cross, we are restored, redeemed and again the precious sons and daughters He intends for us to be and that is the good news. That is why the message of Jesus is good news.
Rev. Melanie Mar Chow serves God through Asian American Christian Fellowship, the campus ministry division of the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society (JEMS). She has been an ordained American Baptist minister since 2004. A Pacific Northwest native, she currently lives with her husband and daughter in Southern California.