Finding My Voice (and a little pep talk for the young girls out there)

keep the earth below my feetI had a professor in college who taught us about the “principle of leaving and entering,” i.e. one cannot move forward to the next [life stage, opportunity, job, city, destination, you fill in the blank] without making peace with what you’re leaving behind [be it college, your hometown, you get the idea]. At the time, I was dreaming about volunteering abroad after college, and ready to leave behind the America I knew. But what I didn’t realize at 22 is that the next stage of life would be just as much about putting things behind as it would be about pursuing new things.
A couple years after college, I burnt out.
I. simply. Couldn’t. keep. Up.
I lost myself and become bitter and cynical towards much of what I saw around me.
It wasn’t until 2011 that I realized just how many voices of the past were still lingering in my head, like flies in desperate need of a fly swatter. Voices of a spiritual community that said women were to be submissive, to “let their husbands lead.” Churches that said males were to be “pastor, provider, and protector” of his wife. Voices that said being a female pastor was a sin. Voices that made sure everybody knew what Christianity stood against, but left the world puzzled as to what we actually stood for. Voices that tried to rescue souls from hell, while ignoring the literal hells and Gehennas in the world going on right now. Sexual slavery. HIV/AIDS. Extreme poverty. Orphans without homes. Should I keep going?

In 2012, I began a journey towards freedom- freedom of religion, of dogma, of other people’s demands, of paved paradises- into a personal journey of development and enrichment. It’s looked like lots of open spaces, lots of gathering ’round the table over wine and sweets and savories, lots of finding and losing myself on bicycles. In this freedom, it’s as though God took me by the hand to lovingly, but firmly, (because the lesson was too important to miss out on) teach me that the thing about the past is just that. It’s in the past. It cannot hurt you again. It cannot continue to hurt you or frustrate you unless you let those voices zap your energy from the present moment.
For far too long, this woman’s listened to voices of the past that were squelching life, joy, zest for the moment. Alas, I looked myself in the mirror, a good ol’ stare yourself down, straight-up-talk, with a little bit o’ lovin’, and a lot of bit of firmness. I looked in the mirror, and noticed a cynic. Ugh. I hate that word. To me, it’s synonymous with a passive, complaining, do-nothing-to-change-anything kind of persona. So I asked God to silence those voices, the ones that were slowly, painfully, hauntingly taking away my joy, my peace, my resolve, and silence them one and for all, to free me from the people and places and noises that were no longer helping me become the person I want to become. I asked God to change me from cynicism into activism. Hurt into compassion. Bitter to better.

Somewhere in the process, I learned that I don’t need to fight anymore.. not against those voices, at least. A little whisper breathed into my heart,
You’ve been freed.
Let your load feel lighter, your burdens from heavy rocks to little pieces of shiny yellow sand.
Put the boxing gloves down.
Breathe.
You no longer have to defend, nor strive, nor try to make yourself understood.”

I thought it would feel easier. But then I realized that that’s not quite the way it works. The moment you stand for something, there is something you are implicitly standing against. The more and more you become the person you want to be, the voice that isn’t God’s will try to steer you off course. When you become YOU, not someone else’s version of you, you will disappoint people. But let me tell you something, you will become the person you were made to be. The more you will realize that the very people still standing beside you are there because they really do love you, they really do care, and they really do desire God’s peace and love and blessings upon you, not out of pity, nor spite, but out of a selfless kind of love that has found its way through the broken chains of redemption, giving voice and beauty to the very fact that you and I are both humans, composed of flesh and blood, and you and I have both been created in the womb.
I am freed now from what’s been zapping precious energy, and I can’t wait to learn, and love, and do, and grow, and experience with this new found freedom what God can finally place in my life in the thoughts and corners and crevices of my heart that were once holding onto hurt, bitterness, and a seemingly endless desire to be understood. I am free. I can only imagine what will go in those pockets of my heart now. I can love without mountains of expectations or fears of being hurt.
I can express bona fide joy—my smiles will no longer be a veil, hiding a voice that’s afraid of being mistaken as impolite, too afraid to speak up.
I can operate out of a place that points to the horizon and feel alive in my soul, and my bones, and my eyes; to live the story, full and raw, not dependent upon things be one way or another, but ever confident that this risk of living a better story is so much better than living in the choking weight of others’ voices that try to drown out the one true voice of who you want to become.

Go point to your horizon.

MOVE.
You don’t have time to respond to your critics.
You simply don’t have time.
Be you, the REAL you, ALL of you… that’s what the world needs.
Go seek.
Go ask.
Because what I hope that the girls of new generations come  to realize is this: that if ever there was a time for women to rise up and unite, the time is now. Oh yes, I’m thankful for my sisters who gave me the ability to vote. For women who went to college and challenged typical professions. But there is so much work we still must do.

Advocate.
Preach.
Lobby.
Dream. Louder.

May you listen to that one constant in your heart.
May you give voice and flow to all that longs to leap inside of you.
May your songs be peace, may your dance be love, and may your love bring freedom.

Because you have a voice that’s no one else’s.
We’re ready to hear it.

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Just a few thoughts before race day about not being silent and changing the world…

Opportunities in life don’t always come for the swift, the fastest. Sometimes opportunities come for those who are willing, who are looking, who are ready. And so, sitting here in this plane listening to the songs that guided me through … Continue reading

You Don’t Have to Raise Your Hand Anymore.

Sometimes I still get caught waiting… waiting for permission.

I’m not sure where along the way I developed the notion that you had to ask for permission to voice your opinion, to share your hurts, to offer another viewpoint, to experience different churches, to try different ministries and ways of serving, to find God in ways other than the Bible.

Perhaps it’s nothing more than the “nice-girl-syndrome” that both the church and society often place upon females, being subtly taught to smile, always smile, be polite, share all of your toys, be nice…

But I don’t want to be a “nice girl” anymore.

No. I’m discovering that we were meant to be courageous, be brave, contrarian, strong, and bold… to be women of peace but not passivity, to be women and men of kindness, but not doormats. To be loving, but remembering that the command was to “love God as you love yourself.”

I truly believe that l, and many women and girls too, today, are acting like we are raising our hands, properly seated at our desks, feet crossed around the ankles, waiting to be called upon. Just yearning for one person to call on us, to let us speak, to let us try. I’m absolutely terrified and yet at the same time completely ecstatic to remind that you don’t have to raise your hand anymore. You don’t need permission, because dear Child, in Christ, you are already free. You already have permission. And not only do you have permission, but you actually have a responsibility. To speak out against injustice. To make the church more just and equitable, no matter the gender or sexual orientation. To try. To mess up. To get it wrong. To receive grace and open arms, ready to welcome you in as you spread your wings.
So use that voice. Lift up that head. Turn your whisper into ebullient communion. Yes, step out; You don’t become bold and strong and brave by sitting in your seat. No, that’s not for you.

It’s scary, I know, stepping out onto the edge. None of us can hit fast-forward and watch the scenes unfold in our lives to make sure that we’re not just telling ourselves nice things for a moment of comfort, condolences for lost time, but really… deep within my core… I really believe it. I believe we are rising up, each one of us, finding our voices, waving and embracing and opening doors with the hands we used to raise. We’re going to find freedom.  We really are. Yes you are going to pursue your impassions and when people disapprove, in due time, you’re going to feel a small self-assured smile come over you. It will be your clue, your token, your sign of knowing you’re doing the right thing. You’re living the way you were meant to live… something to the tune of what Sarah Bessey once wrote: “To piss a few people off and sing freedom to the rest.”

I’m so excited. My desk is gone and my hand is no longer raised. It’s time to head out to recess and sing, hop, skip, run, jump into reckless songs of freedom. Class dismissed.