Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Letters to Emma: On Owning Your Voice

So Dear One,
There is a lot of attention being paid to your voice these days. And rightly, so, friend, because you have an extraordinary gift and you worked hard to be able to use that gift in a special way. But we all have a voice, Emma. Some of us sing with it and some of us preach with it and some of us mother with it and some of us silence it into the prayers of our hearts in the cloister and some of us just are who we are with it in the ordinary extraordinary of every day.

But the world, it cries out for our voices, Emma. It needs us to use them. And we, girls like me and you, we find that easy a lot of the time. Except when it's not. And then it is so not. Usually, that hard time comes when using our voice in whatever manner makes us feel vulnerable and raw and exposed to the world. When using our voices means letting our hearts hang out of our mouths all exposed to everyone's eyes. And suddenly, our once confident awareness of our own gift is gripped by fear.

And we begin to wonder what others hear when they hear our voices and what they see when they see our hearts. And we worry whether it sounds good to them and whether they like it. And we begin to wonder if maybe they don't. And then, sweet Emma, we turn a critical eye on ourselves.

We look at all the imperfections in the notes we hit and the words we spoke and the love we gave. We remind ourselves of all the imperfections of our sinful hearts and we consider that maybe we were wrong, crazy even, to think that we were gifted, that God wanted to use imperfect, broken, sinful us. And fear threatens to silence us.

Emma, let's make a pact that we won't let our voices be silenced by fear. That we won't listen to ourselves on playback over and over again and be our own harshest critics. That we won't nitpick our imperfections to the point that we start to doubt our worth. Emma, let's own our voices, imperfect though they, and we, may be. Let's own the fact that we were given a mission and a purpose by a God who was from the beginning of time and who brought life into the world that was a light in the darkness. That we have been given a voice to light the darkness by the God of Life. And that He gave us purpose and mission and voice to use for His glory.  Can we just be okay with that? Own it?

Even though sometimes it might be the humiliation of using it at the wrong time in the wrong way because we risked wrongly? Even though sometimes it might mean our own self-doubt strangles the good and sin spills out and we sound scratchy and screechy and all off key in our irritability and jealousy and anger? And even though many, many times it will have to be the voice of repentance with which speaks the million "I'm sorrys" and "Bless me Father for I have sinned" that must come out of a voice used often?

Can we just be okay with knowing that if we commit to using our voice and using it well that sometimes we will use it not so well? And that it is not the end of the world? Because, Emma, I never want you to be afraid of being vulnerable or embarrassed into silence by your brokenness. I want those moments to make you sing and shout from the mountaintops even louder--that it's from Him and for Him and through Him and we are a messy mush of gift and girl and woman and woe--but He has chosen to use us, so we will let ourselves be that.

And, Emma, there are going to be times too that you get it exactly right. Knowing you, there are going to be LOTS of times you get it exactly right. You are going to sing beautifully or say just the right thing or be just the mom you imagined you'd always be or pray a prayer that makes you believe in your God and your goodness just a little bit more. And one of two things will happen. No one will hear it or everyone will hear it.

Either way, it's going to try to sully the moment for you, Emma. The loneliness of getting it right in secret is hard to bear. And getting it right when everybody sees it? Oh my, how hard is that?

All these compliments and people telling you how beautiful your gift is and you not knowing where to draw the humble line and that false Catholic girl guilt telling you that you shouldn't enjoy it and yet, well, you kind of want to enjoy it. Emma, can I tell you something? Go ahead and enjoy it guilt free.

Don't sully the beauty of your voice feeling like you have to be self-deprecating every time someone pays you a compliment. It's one of Christian women's most unattractive tendencies. True humility is in letting the little girl blush creep into your cheeks and saying in all sincerity, "Thanks, that means a lot to me." And letting that be true. Because it does. And because no one pays you a compliment because they want to be accosted by your self-doubt. They want to encourage and build up. Be built up, sweet one. And be okay with the fact that it makes you feel good.

There is so much stuff out there about loving on and meeting the needs of an introvert. Well, Emma, we extroverts we like to be loved on to. And for us, we need a little lime light, a little positive attention and interaction, some good conversation and time to process out loud. God made us that way, and He says it is good. So let's be good with that, okay?

And you know what? After all that, when we have owned our voices, however we're called to use them in the moment, and learned to confess our sins and accepted our own imperfections and let it be good when we get it right. After all that, Em, comesthe fun part.

We can take those voices and use them to encourage and build up and bring life to others. To the vulnerable and the forgotten and those who do not know Him at the ends of the earth, but to our own sisters who are still gripped by that familiar fear we know all too well too. And, Emma, that part is always so, so good. But you must do the hard work on yourself first to be credible.

So let's promise we'll seek Him and work hard together on owning our gifts, our voices? Because, Emma, the world needs you. And me. And all of us girls with the songs in our hearts that are us in the daily living for Him. He knew that. He knitted us together with a purpose in mind. And owning that will make our songs sound that much more lovely, dear one, whether we sing them into a microphone or the ear of a child or the heart of a friend or from the mountaintops of Costa Rica or some other corner of the world. All of us, the women with the Light of God in our hearts, we have a song to sing to and a voice that is ours and unique and much needed and beloved to the Lord.

Let's live that, Emma. And help others do the same. Because that, my friend, can change the world.

Word prompt: Voice
Linking up at Velvet Ashes. Better late than never!
Who's Emma? I talked about that here: "A lot of people have asked me who Emma is. She is a real girl. A beautiful young soul who I am blessed to know. But she is also so many young ladies I know and love. My own nieces. Daughters of dear friends. And she is me. Much of what is in those letters is a message to my own soul. A moment of self-teaching to bring clarity and focus to a life that can often be overwhelming to process."

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