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  • Writer's pictureJill Jarrell Newsome

Wrestling with God

If you went to school with me after 8th grade you know I did not get nervous over oral reports because I was NOT going to do it. If you have known me since then you are thinking, "the way you like to talk? No way!" I have heard it plenty. I am fine unless the talk gets "formal."

In the eighth grade, while giving an oral book report, I freaked. Later years I thought I may have had a panic attack. Voice shaking. Hands shaking. In front of my heart throb! Prior to that I loved being in front of people. I even signed up for a solo part - but that's another blog on making a joyful noise! In the middle of my report I said, "and that's all." At 13 years old that will not happen but once. You will make sure it never happens again...ever!

And so the fear began. I had to make all A's so that I could afford a zero on any oral report. I was very careful not to sign up for an elective that would include anything oral. I was absent if I needed to be. My senior exam was an oral paper and my teacher looked at me and said and everyone will do it and not be absent. She didn't scare me nearly as much as that exam did. And I was sick that day. I remember reading a magazine article about MADD (mother's against drunk drivers) and a mother had lost her child to a drunk driving accident and she was speaking at high schools. I could not do that. I remember thinking, I wish I believed in something strong enough I could speak in front of people. I remember that day like it was yesterday.

And so the fear snowballed. I did appreciate my professors in college giving me the heads up in a syllabus. I knew on day one if I needed to drop the class. I had already picked a major that did not require speeches. I am so ashamed of this but this is how fear can really snowball and get bigger and bigger. The thought of going up front for communion made me sick. I avoided church those Sundays. This breaks my heart and I am so ashamed to tell you. But fear had a hold of me! And satan loves it!

I hated being in weddings and walking down the aisle. They had bets on me never going down the aisle. I still cannot believe I did. Fast forward to married life. It took a lot of nerve to visit a Sunday School class. I did not want to even say my name out loud. If they would have asked me to pray I would have never come back. My jobs had to be talking in front of people free! I cannot tell you how exhausting it is to run from something 24/7.

In 1996 I went to the Walk To Emmaus that I have mentioned before. It is a 72 hour spiritual retreat. I loved it and it changed my life. Shortly after I was called and asked to give a talk on the next women's walk. I politely told the girl thanks but I don't do that. She said, "don't answer me now. Pray about it and I will call you next week." HA! I am not praying about that because I already gave her the answer but she can call back in a week if she wants and I will tell her the same thing again. No need to get nervous. You see I loved sharing about how God has changed my life and what He has done for me! That is why I wrote books.

That was a horrible week. You know why? I was wrestling with God. I cried constantly. I would put it out of my mind because I was not going to do it. You see, the problem was when I went to Emmaus I gave myself to God 100%. Not the 95% I had already given Him. That meant I had to at least pray about it. I felt like He was saying, "Jill, do you love me?" My dad told me when I quit fighting God and committed the tears would quit. He was right. I am not exaggerating when I tell you I was physically sick the next six months when I would think about it....daily. I loved writing the talk. The day came for the talk and I shook and heard a voice in my head say, "run, run". The sweet minister who knew how scared I was prayed so hard that when I returned to the prayer chapel he was wet with sweat and crying.

That was about 20 or 30 talks ago and I took baby steps. I still got sick but I always fought, cried, gave in and was then grateful. God showed me that every time there was at least one person who would come to me saying they needed to hear that particular talk. I started a circle and 3 Sunday school classes because that was what I was good at. Then I would wonder who would teach or pray that first Sunday. Of course I would have to. God nudged me slowly. Slowly God pushed me out of my comfort zones through SS classes and giving talks on Emmaus. He even put me in charge as lay director several times. It was brutal but a blessing!

After I was sick I decided I wanted to do some different things at church. I kept feeling like God was nudging me to do a women's retreat. I don't even like women's retreats. But I kept feeling the nudge. One Sunday we had a guest speaker that I loved. As we were walking through the parking lot, out of the blue, she gave me her card and said if you ever want to do a women's retreat let me know. OK GOD! So I mulled it over a while and then started planning. The second year to save money I decided I could write and speak. It took all year to do the planning but I loved the writing. God is so sneaky how he works. All of a sudden you look back and look where he has moved you! The last four years I did women's retreats and I was so excited. I still get extremely nervous. I still wrestle with God. I am a very slow learner obviously but I now say, "God you already know my feelings but I trust you!"

I am in the process of planning some more opportunities to share what God has done for me. I am petrified and I am wrestling. So I write to work through this. And I keep having to say I trust you, God! And I also thank Him for what He is going to do! The difference that the last five years has made is that I am actually excited but still scared. I have decided that talking in public about God is like exercise. I never want to do it but I am always grateful that I did.

Wrestling with God is not new. Jacob saw the face of God when he wrestled with the angel. (Genesis 32: 22-32) Romans 8: 17-18 "Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

Remember in high school how I wished that I believed in something so strong that I could stand in front of people and talk about it?! The part I did not tell you was that God told me I would and through the years He has revealed other things to me. I remember it like it was yesterday. Of all the things I could have believed in so strong how cool is it that it was Him all that time? It only took 30 years! He sure is a patient God! And I still wrestle. I know He just shakes his head at me! But He knows that I know I am his heir so my present suffering is not worth comparing to the glory that He has shown me!

Are you wrestling with God?


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