Awhile back I cleaned out one of the cabinets in our bookcase. While sorting through various papers and notebooks and whatnot, I stumbled across an envelope containing a letter and a paper bookmark, the letter typewritten, the bookmark worn and a little crinkled with "To Lisa From Sue" handwritten on the back, both the letter and bookmark dated August 1990.
That summer of 1990 I participated in a small group study led by a young married woman a few years older than myself. I had just graduated from college and was spending the summer at home before I left for graduate school in the fall. I was also dating a very handsome young man that I would soon promise to marry.
Unbeknownst to those of us in the study, our leader had asked other women--older, godly women--to pray for a specific member of the group. Our leader's mom had received my name and over the course of that summer she prayed for me and for my future and for my future husband and for our life together. She prayed for me to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. At the close of the study, in August, she gave me a letter outlining many of the verses she prayed over me as well her hopes and prayers on my behalf. With the letter she included a paper bookmark with both our names written on the back and the date.
This is the letter I found these twenty some odd years later. I confess I had forgotten all about her praying for me and as I read her letter tears sprang to my eyes. So much of what she had asked the Lord to do in me He had done. I wondered what she would think if she could see me now: an ordinary wife and mom of four, a Bible teacher, a lover of the Word, a humble and grateful pauper to the grace of the Lord. As I reflected over my life, with all its failures and victories both, I saw her legacy to me, a legacy passed down through the faithful, hidden intercession of a godly woman on her knees.
I wrote a post recently at my personal blog where I announced I was more than my motherhood. In that post I mentioned the seeming prevalence of women in current evangelical discussion both as subject and object: we discuss, we're being discussed. I quickly admit that my observation is just that: merely my observation and certainly not an official survey of the whole of the internet landscape concerning women. But, in the course of that same observation, I read much about women and their voice, more specifically the lack thereof.
I'm not sure exactly what is meant by voice, and surely it varies depending on who is writing and what they are lamenting. The plea for a voice seems to occur in two main contexts: 1) the cry for the female voice in our churches usually meaning a place of authority (the pulpit, more specifically) or 2) the mandate to use one's gift often implying a public voice: writing, blogging, speaking, and so on. In the second scenario the argument is often presented along the lines of "you've been gifted and the world needs your voice so get out there and _____" (fill in the blank with whatever sort of public platform one is supposed to engage with the gifted voice).
I think of the women like my faithful interceder, women who had a voice in my life and my spiritual journey, women the Lord used to grow me and teach me and challenge me and inspire me. Women like my mom who sat on the back porch in the early morning with her bible in her lap and prayers on her heart for us, her kids. Or the senior adult who taught me Sunday school back in one of my elementary years. I don't remember her name but I remember her love for the Lord, the dioramas we made, and that she cried when I told her my grandmother had died. I think too of the young college student who taught one of my high school Sunday school classes and her eager enthusiasm for the Word. Or my college minister's wife who modeled to me a strong woman of faith, a woman who knew the Word and who taught me by example that the Lord called women to serve Him too.
There have been so many women through the course of my journey who faithfully served me as they served the Lord. I am part of their legacy and their voices ring loud in my life and my heart. They had no large platform, no pulpit, no book or blog or speaking circuit. Most of what they taught me was not in some sort of official capacity but fleshed out in real life, one on one, their speaking the truth with love and conviction. They loved me and they loved Jesus and they were not silent. Their voices were strong and sure as they spoke grace and hope and joy to whomever and wherever the Lord granted opportunity.
And some of them prayed, their voices silent before men but loud before the throne of God.
Sisters, we are not muzzled. You have a voice. Maybe it's not the voice you think you want nor the audience you think you deserve. Be careful of falling into the trap of thinking gifting determines vocation. Love to teach? You don't have to have a pastorate or a podium to teach. Find a young mom or a group of college students and speak the truth in their lives. The world isn't necessarily awaiting your gift but someone in your sphere of influence is.
Years ago I taught a ladies' Bible study during the Sunday evening discipleship hour at my church. One Sunday night only two ladies showed up for class. I can't tell you how embarrassed I am to confess this, how heartsick I am over my selfish pride, but the truth of it is I didn't teach. You read that right. We didn't have class. We sat around for awhile--I suppose I was waiting for more to arrive--and finally we dispersed until time for the evening service to begin. I called my husband in the intervening break and when he asked how the class I went I said, "We didn't meet. No one showed up."
I am heartily ashamed of myself and I should be. I had a voice and I had two eager to hear and instead I despised the smallness of my ministry. I decided those two lives were no one. I'm certainly not claiming that my lesson would have been the end-all, be-all in those two young women's lives. What I am saying is this: I missed an opportunity to be a voice because I was blinded by my pride.
Speak. Serve. Declare the excellencies of Him who saves. You have a voice. Use it.