Reflections

Finding My Voice

I wrote yesterday about my lifelong love of writing, and how it has evolved to where I am today. It’s part of a dream I have…a wild and crazy dream that I believe with all my heart has been embedded into me by no one but my Creator. It is only a part of that dream, though…and the other part is what I want to write about today.

I have always loved the written word. That much is certain. What I have not always loved is the spoken word – that horrifying idea of speaking in front of people, or speaking at all where someone might actually hear me. For the volumes and volumes I have written in journals and blogs and other venues, the words I have willingly spoken aloud pale in comparison.

I am, by nature, an introvert. In most situations, I am far more content to let someone else do the talking. It’s not necessarily that I don’t have anything to say (I think the fact that I have a blog makes that clear), but just that I don’t feel any urgency to express myself vocally. I never have.

I did very well in writing classes all throughout school, but public speaking classes were another story. I was the kid whose knees wobbled and whose voice trembled and who broke into a frantic cold sweat at the mere suggestion that I would have to do an oral report. I was terrified by the thought of standing on a stage of any kind, and I really think it was my aversion to speaking in front of people that kept me from ever running for any position in student government.

I have never been a public speaker. I have always been okay with that.

A few years out of college, though, I was given an opportunity to be the “welcome girl” at my church. (We never have really figured out what that should be called.) The regular girl was out of town and the pastor, for reasons still unknown to me, asked me to do it while she was gone. It was very basic stuff: “Good morning…welcome to our church…here’s what we’re talking about today…stand up for worship,” but to me, the avowed NON-public speaker, it was a very big deal. I was TERRIFIED. I had to get up and, in the most relaxed and welcoming and peaceful voice I could muster, had to usher people into a state of personal and reflective worship.

What?

How in the world?

But I did it that first week, and then I did it again. And again. And again and again. Before long, I was the official welcome girl. It became what I was known for, and soon everyone in church knew who I was even if I didn’t know them personally. For a wallflower, it was a weird place to be. Very, very weird…

….but somehow, I found myself liking it. I really, really liked it. It wasn’t about the attention at all – that part was still very odd to me.  After doing it for awhile, though, I actually became comfortable up there.  It wasn’t at all about the attention; it was about being in a position to exercise a gift I never knew I had…to flex muscles, so to speak, that had been cramped for years.  I would tremble and hyperventilate moments before stepping up onto the stage, but once I was there and the microphone came on and the lights were on me, I was in my element. I actually found myself liking it.

Never saw that coming….

And then, something else. A mental health fair/conference was being planned at my church. I was asked to be one of the presenters, and I hesitantly agreed. I was to share my personal experience with mental illness, including my depressive states and my panic attacks and my anxiety.  All of it.  I wrote a deeply personal talk, and on the day of the conference I was a nervous wreck.

But when I got onstage, something happened. With the wireless microphone strapped to my face and a message burning on my tongue, I felt something unexpected.  The best way I can put it is this: I came alive on that stage that day. I felt more alive during that half hour or so than I have ever felt in my life. I felt something surging through me that I had never experienced before, and I knew that something different was happening to me.  I felt a rush and I knew – I knew – that I had to do that again.

Since then, I have done it again.  I’ve been speaking at my church every couple of months or so, and I was part of a pretty incredible women’s conference last spring.  This speaking thing…..it’s not what I would have ever expected for myself, but it is something that I love to do.

I love it, not at all because of the attention but because when I am up there, the words that come are not my own. I love it because I am delivering a message that is not about me, but is more worth delivering than anything I’ve ever said in my life.  I love it because I am uniquely equipped when when I am up there in the lights to share my experience of who God is, in hopes of helping others to experience Him like I have…and even beyond what I have ever experienced.  I love it because when I am in that incredibly vulnerable position, I experience the Holy Spirit in more powerful ways than ever.  Most personally, I think I love it most of all because it is in the experience of speaking that God keeps me dependent on Himself. It is something I cannot do on my own, and through it I have grown closer to the Lord than I ever would have if I had stayed in the comfort of my seat in the back of the church.  Strangely, the writing of the message is the most stressful part for me, waiting on God to speak and reveal what He would have me say to His people.  Once I am onstage, He takes over and I get to sit back and watch.

I don’t know quite how to explain it.  I hope and pray that at some point in their lives, everyone would get to experience the completely right feeling of being exactly where they are supposed to be, doing exactly what they were created to do, all for the glory and honor of the One who designed them to do it.  There is nothing like it.

And so, in a strange turn of events that is no surprise whatsoever to the One who has guided me down this wandering path, I want to speak.  I want to speak as much as I can, to as many people as I can.  I want to speak not so that I can offer self-help advice, or Jessica’s take on life, or my own limited insights on the world.  I want to speak so that I can deliver a message from the God of the universe to the people He loves so, so dearly.  I want to speak so that His voice can be heard.  I want to speak because if I don’t, I am betraying my makeup.  I want to speak because I believe God Himself has given me a gift, and to ignore the gift is to reject the Giver.

So that, friends, is my dream.  Be it big or small in its fruition, that is my dream.  To write and speak God’s words for God’s glory to God’s children.  I have finally come to a place where I can say that I am a writer and a speaker, instead of chalking those up to some future dream I have for myself.  “I want to be a writer and speaker” has evolved into “I am a writer and a speaker.”  They are present realities that I live within.  Has the dream blossomed into its fullest potential?  I can say with honesty that I do not know.  I don’t know what this is to become, if anything more than it is today.

In that admission lies the challenge for me.  Speaking a dream aloud seems to give it a life of its own, and admitting that I do, in fact, have a dream makes me feel like I have to actually do something about it.  For all of my certainty that this is something God wants me to do, I am equally uncertain how to pursue it.  Some dreams – some occupations and vocations and goals – have well-formed templates to follow.  There are certain steps someone has to follow if she wants to be a teacher, doctor, athlete, mother.  This writing and speaking thing…well, I don’t know what the template is, if there even is one.  The best thing I know to do is to continue to write…continue to speak whenever I have the chance…and pursue God before I pursue anything else.

If I pursue God above all else – for the sake of knowing Him and not simply in order to get what I want from Him – He will fulfill the desires of my heart.  That’s His promise to me and to all dreamers.  What I do not want to do is try to make things happen on my own.  Just as I said before that we cannot begin a journey if we don’t even know where we are now, it is also true that taking steps toward a goal is pointless if you don’t know with certainty what the end result will be.  I don’t know what God wants this to be, and I don’t know how He will use me.  All I know is that He has given me a dream, and today, I will use the gifts He has given me.  I can be faithful today with what I have today.

Ultimately, that’s all He’s asking of any of us.

And what about you?  Do you have a dream that you hesitate to speak aloud?  Whisper it to God today.  If it’s what He wants for you, too, you’ll hear Him whisper back.

Dreaming along with you,

Jess

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2 replies »

  1. I know the feeling and agree entirely… I have done some speaking and I have been on the stage as well and that’s what I love about it, in either case it’s not me even though I am laid bare. By the way, I LOVE your header photo.

  2. I remember how much you professed you weren’t a speaker which was always so funny to me because you’re great at it! I hope you’ll find it gets progressively easier for you too! From where I’m sitting you appear to be on just the right path. God’s purpose shows through what you do. Which reminds me, I have the supplies from the mental health fair still sitting in my closet. Know anyone who might want to hang onto those? 🙂
    “The regular girl”

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