Face to Face with Crippling Performance Anxiety (Zach’s Backstory)
“God, please… just help me.”
I could feel the thin, industrial grade carpet even through the knees of my jeans, and it felt worse against the bare skin of my palms – raspy and unforgiving.
I was kneeling by myself in the deserted upper hallway of a lecture building at Northwestern University and actually physically shaking. Badly.
I had been shaking uncontrollably all day – through classes, through lunch, and finally through a dinner that I had barely been able to touch. In less than an hour, I was scheduled to head downstairs and speak to a college group made up of Northwestern fraternity and sorority members – probably the most beautiful, athletic, and intimidating social circle on campus.
Despite having been a musician and stage actor for several years, I suffered with crippling performance anxiety, and I was genuinely terrified at the prospect of speaking publicly. If something didn’t change, this was going to be a train wreck of epic proportions…
What made it worse was that God had been DOING something in my life – something real. It was hard to describe, but my attitudes and desires had started to change and I was feeling alive in a new way – I was experiencing something beyond just the “religious activity” I had previously experienced, and I had really been hoping to share this new life in Jesus with the group downstairs.
“God…. I don’t think I can share like this…” I sagged towards the carpet, “there’s no way I can communicate something real if I can’t even get the words out…”
…And I just kept talking. I wasn’t praying with rote phrases and carefully polished words, I was just being honest – honest, broken and desperate.
And over the course of the next hour, everything started to change – the shaking began to subside. I began to breathe easier and, as strange it sounds, I started to feel…more full in my heart, like God was really WITH me.
I started to notice colors and smells – the small, glass walled hallway with scratchy carpet felt more vibrant somehow. I felt peace – real peace – and as I watched the hairs on my arms begin to stand on end, I felt something else…
I suddenly felt an intense desire to see people FREE – where minutes ago I had been terrified, it was as if my fear had been swept completely away and had been replaced with a passion to see my friends set free from the confusion, hopelessness, unbelief, and fear that I know so many of them were struggling with.
I don’t remember walking down the stairs that night, but I DO remember speaking – I remember the odd feeling that it was almost like watching someone ELSE.
As if from a distance, I remember thinking “Wow, I seems comfortable, not nervous at all… even my jokes are going over well…”
I remember speaking with passion, sharing my experience – that God was REAL. That Jesus was alive and active – that He was personally concerned about us and that He wasn’t just some subject of religious observance or debate
And I remember watching people HEAR the message – I watched Jesus impacting people, changing them and transforming them right in front of me.
And I knew in that moment that if He could use ME – if He could instantly and completely deliver me from the paralyzing fear I had suffered with for so many years – then He could do ANYTHING.
1 Corinthians 1:27 says that “But God [chooses] the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God [chooses] the weak things of the world to shame the strong…” and this is exactly my experience.
This took place more than 20 years ago during my University studies, and during the year following this experience, I tried to take any opportunity I could to speak publicly about Jesus. During that period, I failed sometimes and I struggled on and off with fear, but God slowly broke me of the “habit” of fear. He delivered me from the anxiety that I had struggled with, and He increased the desire in me to see people set free by the love of Jesus.
I knew that the same Jesus who had given His life to forgive me – the God who had delivered me from fear and anxiety and given my life purpose – could do the same for anyone.
I knew that He died to bring freedom for the people all over the world that He loves so much.
And THIS is why we do what we do.
Since 2012, we’ve shared the love of Jesus in 28 nations and seen tens of thousands of people respond. Since April of 2017, we’ve had the privilege of watching thousands respond to Jesus in twelve nations and territories on five continents – we’ve just finished up a packed few months of events in Israel, the West Bank, France, Belize and across the American South and Midwest. Now we’re preparing to head to Portland to begin recording our next CD project, after which we’re scheduled to share the love of Jesus in Pakistan, Mexico and across the American Midwest.
THANK YOU for helping us share the love of Jesus worldwide. Our vision is to follow God’s leading and help reach as many nations and people as we can with the message of Jesus, and your partnership helps us reach the world together. If you’d like to help, click HERE to partner financially and follow us on FACEBOOK for daily prayer updates from the field.
Zach and White Ribbon Day