What I Learned in Speech Class

My family was sitting at the table eating pizza. My older sister, Angie, had a couple of her friends over and the room was lively with chatter. My dad turned to me and said “Hey Lizard, hop up and get me a napkin.”

I froze. I felt blood rush to my face and I was certain that the fourteen-year-old girls sitting around the table were all laughing at me.

“That’s NOT my name!” I spat, full of the rage and embarrassment typical of a sensitive and insecure sixth grade girl. I glared at him, using my angry eyes as a defense against the tears that were welling up inside me. When I saw the shock on his face and realized that all the attention was on me, I fled from the kitchen. I made it to the safety of my room before the sobs began.

The nickname had been mine for years. When I was small and learning to tell others who I was, my name came out of my mouth as “Lowi Lizardbreath.” Of course everyone thought it was cute and for my dad, even though I had outgrown the mispronunciation, the name Lizard stuck.

I spent years in speech class learning to say my ‘r’s and ‘l’s, and essentially my name, correctly. This learning took a lot of work: hours of listening and repeating, of hearing and saying it back. It required me to take notice when I got it wrong and humility and honesty about my mistakes. It took a patient and kind teacher and a committed learner. Eventually, I was capable of correctly telling everyone who I was. “Lori Elizabeth” I could say with confidence.

There are times, though, that even now I second guess myself, wondering if I got it right.

Unfortunately, this second-guessing doesn’t only come when pronouncing my name; sometimes I am attacked by doubts about who I am at my core.

The ruler of this world, feasting on pride and power, loves to tell us lies about who we are. Sometimes he speaks these lies from the mouths of our colleagues, sometimes he whispers them subtly in our minds, and sometimes he even hides them in the questions of our friends. These lies, no matter how they enter our being, can be deadly unless they are carefully sorted out from the truth and removed.

I have been practicing sorting out these lies by asking my Lord the question that Jesus asked Simon Peter: Who do you say that I am?

This learning takes a lot of work- hours of listening and repeating, hearing and saying it back. It requires me to take notice when I get it wrong and humility and honesty about my mistakes. It takes a patient and kind teacher and a committed learner.

With this kind of hard work, and with the Lord as my teacher, I know that I won’t need to tell anyone who I am. When someone gets it wrong, I won’t have to fight back the urge to spit “that’s not who I am” and run off embarrassed and holding back tears. I know that who I am speaks, and that truth speaks with confidence.

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