The night before I gave my sermon, I had a dream that my manuscript translated into Spanish and then it deleted itself minutes before church was about to start. Luckily, my preaching experience went better than I dreamed. As I prepared my sermon, I wrestled with what to write. I decided to write about something that rang true in my own life, and my hope is that it would ring true in the lives of others. I preached on the idea that God uses and calls all people while knowing their imperfections. I definitely struggle with my imperfections, and especially being involved in the church, sometimes I feel as though I need to be better than the average person, as to “set an example.” I thought that I did not have the authority to preach on it since I myself struggled with this idea. What I realized was how God has used my own sermon in my own life. I know the sermon better than anyone else, so it would make sense why I would be reminded of it in my life. When I would start to talk down to myself or fixate on my flaws, I would be reminded of what I said.
In addition, I received so much praise and encouragement from family, friends, and members of the church. Now whenever I start to be consumed by my imperfections, I have loved ones who will remind me of what I said, and how God uses our flaws.
One of the best moments from this sermon was the night before. I was going over everything for about the fortieth time and my parents, who came to town to hear me preach, were coming to say they were going to bed. There were things that my parents and I had not talked about before I wrote my sermon. Things like how being a woman pursuing ministry raised in a Southern Baptist Church had affected my calling. So that night I talked through tears to my parents about how I was scared and how I felt unprepared and inadequate. They told me that they loved me and were proud of me, and, like my pastor Scott Dickison said, it ultimately wasn’t up to me. My parents knew my passion and love for God and said as long as I spoke truth and love, that all would be well.
As I reflect on that tender moment with my parents, I am reminded and thankful for all those in my life who have reminded me who I am and what I am capable of. I am thankful for those who did not place limits on me when I wanted to place them on myself. I am thankful that I have a church that encourages me to pursue my calling and will give me opportunities to do so. Ultimately, as I look back on my first sermon, I am thankful.
Naomi Black graduates this May from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. She plans to attend McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia, in the fall.