This morning, I had to leave. I had to walk away.
We’ve been building a house on the orphanage property for short-term teams and later, for the littles to stay in. We’ve been hauling around cinder blocks and paintig walls and assembling bunk beds. Today was touch-up day because the team comes in two days. Everyone danced and sang and worked their cinderella hearts out scrubbing away at the leftover dirt on the floor. I sat on the bottom bunk of one of the beds in the first room and tried to hold back tears.
Everything that had been sitting in my throat for the last few weeks was all coming up and I had to leave.
I came back to the room and got back in my bed and cried for three hours.
When I first started this thing, I got put on a team with five incredible girls. Not new to me, I took on the role as being the loudest in the group. I was passionate and energetic and… loud. If I had something to say, it was heard by everyone within a mile of me. They didn’t hesitate to let me know about it either. It seemed like I was always getting feedback about my voice.
Halfway through, I was put on a very different team with six new incredible girls. These girls are so full of heart. They are the most passionate, lively people I’ve ever met. They were six people who reminded me of myself. That happens to be one of the most nerve wracking things I’ve ever encountered.
I remember going to our first meeting with our leaders as a new team. One of them told me she saw a lot of personality on our team and that didn’t have to be a bad thing as long as we chose not to let it become one. She told us that while it can be easy to cower back out of intimidation, we were going to have to learn what it looked to stand tall while everyone around us is standing tall too.
I went from being overheard to underheard. I felt like my sentences would start strong and begin to dwindle halfway through. I became frustrated and sometimes even mean. I had accepted the fact that I had a voice and it deserved to be heard. However, I didn’t know how else to live that out except for responded to not being heard by repeating myself louder and meaner.
I wanted to use the voice I had to stand tall, but it came out as insecurity manifesting into forceful, assertive false-confidence. It had become a swim upstream not as a race for the spotlight, but rather in a desperate pursuit of a sense of purpose.
I know you and I know your heart. I know you’re reading this and you are loud, you are passionate, you are lively. You’ve been told to quiet down. Maybe you’ve heard that you’re overstimulating or that you make situations more stressful. The world needs you. It needs those parts of you that all your life, you’ve been told to shut down.
The world needs bold people, but sometimes, you and me, our hearts can forget what boldness really looks like. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Boldness in Silence
I knew a boy in high school who never really spoke and senior year, we were in the same speech class. Everyone talked and people halfway listened, but when Evan was asked to tell the class what he did over Christmas break, his story about hanging out with his girlfriend gained the most intimate attention from the rest of the class. So many times, passionate people are people with good things to say and it can be hard to control that urge when you hear two friends at the next table over talking about that thing that you know everything about. Remember that silence in these moments is daring. There is boldness is sitting back and simply listening. There is courage in finding contentment to just be another face in the audience. I think that you’ll find that when people of few words do speak, they have the most genuine attention of everyone else in the room.
Take a stand
There is something so refreshing about hearing people speak up on behalf of those around them, but also for themselves. The Lord gave you a voice to glorify him. He gave it to you so that you could be Jesus to someone else. To be a loud and proud activist. Know that this is a beautiful thing. Having a tender heart towards injustice is something to be praised for, even when it’s something hurtful that was said to you. There are so many times that I hear people say, “Well, if you know who you are in the Lord and you know that He accepts you, then that stuff can just roll off your back.” To say that, is to say that Jesus Christ on earth didn’t feel pain when people yelled insults at Him. That He didn’t feel hurt when men spat on him as He carried His cross up to Calvary. To have a gentle spirit and a tender heart for wrongness, especially in community, is biblical. In my Message Bible, Philippians 2 says, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in Spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” It is bold to stay thoughtful. It is brave to keep a soft heart and not let yourself be hardened and grow cold because of the wrongness in the world.
Kill the gray area
Because your voice is a gift, it’s such a beautifully powerful tool for taking the Spirit’s words and speaking them into life. Proverbs 18, verse 21 says that words are either life or they are death. They are poison or they are fruit. It doesn’t touch on the subject of humor, but I believe if it did, it wouldn’t affirm the idea of condescending jokes and self-deprecating laughs as things that Jesus loves. Your voice can speak life or it can speak death. Those are the only two options. There is no in between; there is no gray area. What you says bleeds into one side or the other. I know this is a harsh truth, but it simply is the accountability we must hold ourselves to and what a privilege to withhold a gift so precious that we must practice caution. A friend of mine says often, “Do not speak unless what you have to say will better the silence.”
You are needed. Your voice is needed and what you have to say has a place. My prayer is that you will take confidence and run with it, being someone who stands tall among the other trees. If your leaves are different colors and your bark is not as tough, I encourage you to still, stand.
May you all beauty in your gift of words. (I might be a tad biased, but I think it’s the best one.)