When Ishtar Happens

“If you’re going to bomb, you might as well look cute doing it.”

See, I did look cute.

See, I did look cute.

After my sermon last Saturday night, I said those exact words to my husband. It just didn’t click for me. Something was off, but I didn’t know how to pinpoint what it was. I knew my gut was right when I asked my husband for feedback and, for the first time perhaps ever, he had some.

So I went home, reworked some things, and got the message clear in my mind. I wore an even cuter outfit on Sunday, since it was Mother’s Day, and gave the message two more tries. It clicked more, but still wasn’t my favorite. I talked with a couple of people after the service, mostly because they liked my shiny, red shoes and petticoat [seriously, who wouldn’t like them?]. Needless to say, I didn’t get the feeling that I connected.

I silently thanked Jesus that I read a devotional the week before in which the author recounted a story of completely bombing as a speaker at a speaker’s conference. Yikes! She said her friend talked her out from hiding under a rock by reminding her that Dustin Hoffman was in a terrible movie called Ishtar. He could’ve quit acting, but he kept going and won an Oscar two years later. She summed up her experience with the phrase, “Ishtar happens.” Even when you do bomb, you get back up and keep going.

It wasn’t until people started commenting on social media and sharing the message link that I realized some people did like the message. Even without feeling like God used me, he did. I had braced myself for the worst, but it wasn’t as I thought.

My takeaway from this experience can be summed up as, “Do your best and trust God with the results.” I can only do so much to make a message connect with an audience. If I’ve prayed and prepared as much as I needed to, it’s not up to me to make sure that the message changes lives. That part is up to the Holy Spirit. Recognizing my role in the process frees me from lingering regret.

I’ve also learned that using comments after a service or social media likes is a terrible way to gauge whether a message was good. Sure, I should hope people liked it, but sometimes it takes a while to sink in. Other times, a good sermon will leave people in a bad place. As the Holy Spirit speaks, we might be left with conviction of sin or deeper, painful issues that need healing floating near the surface. I wouldn’t be apt to say, “Super job, pastor!” after a message like that either, even if God is doing exactly what he intended through the preacher.

May each of us move forward doing our best at the things God has called us to do and trusting him with the results. As we do so, I pray we’d know the freedom from comparing ourselves to others and measuring our worth in likes.

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