On Wednesdays guest writers are raising their voices. I am honored to have Amy with us today, a fellow Redbud Writer’s Guild Member. Just look at her short twitter bio – “Writer. Professor. Friend. Speaker. Woman. Explorer. Teacher. Wife. Encourager. Hiker. Mentor. Speaker. Mother. Runner. Artist. Theologian.” Wow, I don’t know how she does it all! She’s an incredible woman and writer and I know these words will encourage you to raise your voice with Amy! Be sure to read the whole post for a discount code for her book! – Nicole
Being silenced is terrible.
I know too many who have been silenced by experiences that have taken their voice; some were not allowed to tell their story of abuse, others’ stories were stifled or not believed, and still others were silenced in different ways. And that silencing affects all uses of their voice. In order to regain the use of her voice, a woman’s story must be told and her voice restored to her through empowering prayer and ensuing action.
Silencing ourselves is also an injustice.
Even if we have gotten beyond past silencing or have never struggled with it, most women still face difficulties in finding our voice and using it. Some are afraid of having a weak voice or no voice at all. Others are afraid of having a shrill, annoying, or bossy voice. This is not simply about tone, but also about the deep inner perspective that is shown as we speak. So often, rather than risking an unliked or unaccepted voice, we silence ourselves.
As a professor, I speak a lot, and I know what it feels like to fully find my voice as I speak in front of people. It happens when I am unencumbered by self-doubt, I have a platform, and I am able to flow from thought to thought. It’s as if there’s a river from God flowing through me and out to others. Everything is aligned, all is in sync, and it feels amazingly anointed with Holy Spirit power!
I also find my voice in personal conversation, often when I orally process an event or thought, not knowing the outcome but following the process freely to wherever it takes me.
I wish I could have this voice at all times, but I don’t.
Most sermons that I hear are based on relatively short scriptural passages, have one “big idea,” three points, and a specific application. Preachers are taught this format in seminary, and it has proven to be an effective way of communicating. This, then, is often the way I preach, especially when assigned a biblical passage.
My best voice, however, comes across in first-person narrative sermons. I research a character of scripture deeply and tell the story as if it were my own. When I write the manuscript and when I preach, I feel the same way I’ve described above—it flows so easily.
When invited as a guest preacher, however, I always wonder whether it will be accepted, even though Jesus used stories all the time to teach. Should I do what everyone else does or should I be different? How will the difference be viewed?
I have to keep encouraging myself by the truth that my voice is neither better nor worse. It is simply different, and all voices are necessary. When we choose to emulate someone else’s voice, when we choose not to use our voices, we are depriving the world of our true voice and calling.
Everyone misses out when we are silent.
Sometimes, we want to be sure before we use our voice, but voice is not about certainty. We can use our voices to engage in real talk whether or not we are certain about the entirety of what we are saying. The goal of using our true voice is not to persuade others, though that may be the result. It is primarily to be true to ourselves and authentic in our interaction with others.
Using our authentic voice requires willingness to state an opinion that does not agree. And not agreeing is uncomfortable for me. I hesitate due to the false belief that my thoughts are not valuable and the fear that I will be disappointed if others do not follow or agree with what I say.
To encourage myself, I remember the prophet Ezekiel. God called him to speak God’s message to a people who would not listen. God said that if he did not speak, Ezekiel would be responsible for their disobedience, but if he did speak, the people themselves would shoulder that responsibility. All Ezekiel had to do was speak—he was not responsible for others’ response to his words.
God has given us a voice to use for God’s glory, and we are not responsible for how others respond; we are simply called to speak.
Truth is, though, authentic voice only comes out through practice. It’s not always beautiful on the first try. Often, it begins to emerge in casual, normal conversation as we seek to use our own authentic voice rather than speaking what others want us to say. It comes. It may come halting or in bursts, or slowly, but it comes. And the world is better for hearing, as we are for speaking.
Most of us don’t realize that Scripture includes the voice of women. Their voices are excellent examples to be emulated, for they bring praise to God with gusto! Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, and Mary all sing or pray strong words to God (Ex 15:20–21, Jdg 5, 1 Sam 2, Luke 1:46–55), and many other words of women are recorded. As you read Scripture, note the voices of women as well as their actions. These women spoke not only to other women, but their voices also resonated to the broader population and to all future readers of Scripture. They are examples for us to follow as we begin to develop our true voice.
I hope this encouragement allows us to find freedom to use our voices if we’ve been silenced and if we’ve silenced ourselves.
Because using our authentic voice is beautiful.
Post is adapted from The Book of Womanhood (Cascade, 2015), Chapter 9, “Stand and Speak”
Amy has generously offered A Voice in the Noise Readers 40% off her book!