The Silent Voice

Microphone

(FreeImages.com/TomJackson)

Growing up, I experienced the nurture of loving parents, but I also grew up in and around a culture where it was expected that women were to be the quiet, affirming, supporting ones.  In fact, a strong woman was perceived as a threat to most men in our spheres.  I remember wishing I was a guy… because I did think and wanted to be able to contribute intelligent thoughts and insights.

In and around some of those spheres, a “child” was considered a child until they had a home of their own.  As a female, my parental authority was then transferred to my spouse’s authority.

There is an element to this that is true and healthy: children are under the protection and authority of their parents until they reach adulthood.  It’s the parents’ job to train their children to take increasing responsibility until they are able to make the transition into adulthood.  Husbands do have a responsibility to protect and give spiritual guidance to their families, but this is not to the exclusion of the wife’s influence or voice within the home.

In my growing up environment, there were many families that took the authority issue to an extreme.  Children were considered “children” until they were given permission to marry, but they were also told whom and when to marry, where to work, what jobs to work, etc…  There were many adults I knew who still were not marrying the ones they loved because it was not allowed (in their 20’s and 30’s).

You might wonder why didn’t those adult “children” just do their own thing.  When you have been raised to obey and not question your authorities or you are considered rebellious, you dare not question the system.  Who wants to be guilted or called rebellious because you dared to question something?  The stigma would be too harsh.  My voice was controlled and “silenced” in some of those circles (not trying to reflect this back on my parents; this was the environment of the families and teaching in which I lived).

I remember going on a mission’s trip to Russia.  During my stay there, the wife of the main guy in charge of the entire operation in Russia pulled my sister and I aside and told us one day that we talked too much and that guys don’t like women who talk.  Again, my voice was shamed and silenced.

Within a number of church circles with which we associated, the women were also told to keep silent.  There was not a lot of opportunity for women to have a vocal presence within the church.  The result was I envied the men who had the honor of vocally getting to share because I had to silence so many thoughts that were brimming over in my heart.  I did share them with the Lord and even when appropriate with fellow women.  My voice though felt disqualifed.

[Note: The point of this blog is not to discuss what the Bible does and does not say concerning the roles of men and women.]

My husband is a quieter guy.  He also learned to be quieter, but that is his story…  Because he is quieter, I remember people accusing me of “wearing the pants” in the family.  Again, I taught myself through the continued experiences of my life to hold back, shut down, silence my voice because some male might see me as a threat.

[Note: I had no intention of being dishonoring of my husband, but I simply had an opinion that was articulate and insightful.  Somehow, wisdom and insight coming from a woman was a threat to some people.]

My longing to be heard, to have a voice led me to blog.  Some might be misinterpreting what I am saying as being a self-absorbed preoccupation with a need to be heard.  My motivation for blogging though was that God had given me a voice to be heard and somehow it needed to be heard so I began to blog.  The “voice” He gave me was to share the things that He is teaching me on this journey, called life.

There are times that I can be in a group of women and will even share a few things, but still feel not “heard.”  Part of that is because sometimes we are all so desperate to be heard that no one is really listening.

Sometimes, we are all so desperate to be heard that no one is really listening.

Why is being heard so important?

Why is it so painful to feel like no one hears or cares to really hear you?

Have you ever been in a room brimming with people, the noise is deafening, but in the middle of the noise, you feel unseen and unheard?

Is there more to “seeing” and “hearing” than the physical sense?

Is it more the sense of feeling loved, validated, wanted, respected, appreciated, and noticed for which we are really looking?

What are we desperately desiring in the pursuit for validation, respect, and appreciation?  Isn’t it about connection, love, and belonging?  Isn’t that where we truly find purpose?

Yet, we look for purpose sometimes in the very things that disconnect us from connecting, from receiving and giving love, and from really experiencing the stability that comes from truly belonging. 

There is commitment that is required to really belong.  Yet, those who need that sense of belonging the most are the most likely to “shy away” from commitment.  It is frightening, risky, vulnerable.

As I seek to find my voice, I am also aware of the pitfalls.  It’s easy to try to find my voice and in the process I forget about everyone else’s voice. 

Do I enjoy my “shining moment” at the expense of others? 

Right now in my journey, I am still learning to find the courage to be heard, to not apologize for being heard, and to also in the process learn to listen to the silent cries of all the voices around me, longing for someone to care enough to truly listen.

Sometimes The Best Way To Welcome Someone Is To Be “Unprepared”

Carved-stone welcome "mat" at the Auburn Sounder station. Note that they face the boarders, not the deboarders.

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2456222&searchId=fc0d07ca355de4e790053ed7db407892&npos=18)

I am a mom of five children.  It goes without being said that life is busy.

Busyness necessitates picking priorities.  I am learning that people are more important than keeping a pristine house. 

I still function better in a clean house, but I am learning that my worth isn’t found in the state of my house.

I am also learning that my worth isn’t found in the performance of my kids so that means inviting people into my life and allowing them to observe the imperfect but beautifully authentic reality of life. 

It means allowing people to see the way we interact and that we have struggles just like everyone else.  That we are imperfect people raising imperfect little people.

I am also learning that my worth isn’t based on my appearance My worth doesn’t need validation from others.  My worth has already been determined.

So this morning I knew I had company coming.   That meant it was time to clean a house that had been missing my attention due to a busy week of running, homeschooling, and caring for six other people.

My poor bathrooms!  Oh, they were in desperate need of a face-lift so I scurried around making them fit for human use.

By the time I had straightened a little, cleaned dishes, fed everyone, changed a dirty diaper, cleaned bathrooms, swept floors and stairs, I knew I was running out of time to get myself presentable.  I still hadn’t showered, dressed, or even brushed my hair.

I know it was the Lord in His grace, but the thought came to my mind, “Your company may show up any minute and maybe you are supposed to greet her this way to encourage her that your life isn’t perfect.  Don’t be stressed; just offer the gift of authenticity.”

Sure enough, the door-bell rang immediately after that thought.

I can say that without God’s gentle “coaching” I would have been stressed, embarrassed, and ashamed that I was so unprepared for company.

Yet, God in His loving way was encouraging me that sometimes what our friends and loved ones need isn’t false perfection, but what they need is our willingness to offer ourselves, to be authentic, to be vulnerable.

This dear friend so graciously entered my home and never once made me feel awkward or embarrassed over my disheveled appearance.  As we talked, laughed, and watched our active little ones, it didn’t matter that one of us hadn’t showered, dressed, or brushed her hair.

What mattered was that we were two mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, friends sharing a part of our lives together.

How refreshing it is to know that worth, friendship, and love is never about perfection, performance, or appearance.  It’s about authentic lavish love — love that God Himself has so richly poured upon us.

Because of that love, we are given many opportunities to share the gift of ourselves and the gift of the moment with others.