He counted paragraphs; that’s how Clay Harrington dealt with the paralyzing fear of speaking in public.

In grade school when they took turns reading in class, he would count the number of kids and then count the paragraphs, until he determined the one he would have to read aloud.

He spent the minutes sweating over and studying every word, hoping he could somehow get through without the humiliation of stuttering. Kids were harsh and often made fun of him. That traumatizing experience told Clay he would never be a public speaker.

But at home, Clay’s mother and grandmother believed something different. From the time he was young, they predicted he would be a preacher.

Clay saw nothing in his natural ability that would make that dream possible. He chalked it up to a mother’s over-confidence in her son. He just knew they were wrong.

Clay spent many of his young adult years running away from God. When he met Jesus, he was radically transformed. He was surrendered and willing to do whatever God called him to do.

Then a pastor asked him to share his story at a men’s event – to stand up and speak in front of a group.

“The fear of ‘What will people think?’, the trauma of stuttering when I was a child and all those kids laughing at me in elementary school came up, and it was as if the voice of the enemy was saying, ‘Who do you think you are? You are going to stutter and stammer. This is going to be awful.'”

Clay was all grown up, but the memories of being that kid in a classroom were strong. How could he face down that fear?

Hear Clay’s story in Chapter 49 of Epic.

Gifted to speak