Last weekend in Wichita, Kan., 900 women came from across several states to listen to powerful testimonies of God's grace. I was hired to be the "humorist" for this event, and I had prepared for months getting my two routines ready. My friends Kelli and Jamie had helped me figure out what "reads" funny versus what "performs" funny, and Ellen, Brian, and my husband Dave had come alongside me as angels of encouragement when I began to listen to that pesty demon of insecurity that promised me I would fail. Dave's "break a wrist" text a few hours before I appeared had calmed my fears -- at least momentarily.
My first routine was risky. It was an out-of-control mother whose surprise visit from Jesus shows the worst side of her. It needed to be memorized, and even though I had worked on it line-by-line, I would, when practicing, still forget chunks of it. For weeks I went over it --every morning and every evening -- each time adding and subtracting from its original version, more convinced than ever that it wasn't funny. Visions of a female mutiny haunted me.
I was to be at the Wichita church for a 3:00 microphone check. Once there, I began my routine and ended shortly thereafter when the technician said I was good to go. But then there was some question about my monitor and he had me start again. This time I wasn't even close to what had been scripted. My confidence plummeted. More prayers.
Fill my gaps, Lord. Fill my MANY gaps! I'm going to be eaten alive. Little did I know, even more gaps would need to be plugged before the day was over.
Linda Egle was the first of the keynote speakers. Heading a nonprofit group, she works to redeem foreign women from a life of trafficking. Her stories and PowerPoint pictures left us all grieving, in spite of her message of God's redeeming grace. As I watched her presentation, new doubts surfaced. How could I possibly turn this stunned, saddened audience into one of joy? I prayed for an earthquake.
Backstage, changing into my costume and calling on my Heavenly Father for any excuse to not perform, I suddenly remembered that over 200 women had been involved in praying for this conference. God was in control, and His message in Psalm 126:5 was as true that day as it was when it was written: "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." Possibly these women could switch gears and laugh, after all, I told myself.
Over that day and the next, stories of grace abounded. Dr. Terri Rine spoke of choosing mere survival verses, choosing a God-focused life as she recounted the recent murder of her only daughter, Micah. Terri showed a copy of Micah's final journal entry in which she wrote of spending eternity with her Lord, never suspecting that two days later, her husband would take her life. Choking back tears, Terri's story of grace included these words: "Micah's death is a part of me, but it isn't the end of me."
Marnie Ferree bravely spoke of her addiction to sex, her life of adultery and her cervical cancer caused by an STD. Her life-changing encounter with Jesus allowed her to heal, and she now leads women's seminars on sexual addiction. Last year alone, 360 women attended her clinic. It was powerful stuff.
As for my routine? It was fine. The women didn't walk out. And even though I know my story of God's grace pales in comparison to the other speakers, He did His work. Lives were changed at that conference, and mine was one of them.