Have you ever felt like you’ve lost your voice? Not literally losing your ability to speak as in the case of laryngitis, but rather losing the assurance that you have something worthwhile and meaningful to contribute to the world? Our editor Daniela shares her personal experience of re-realizing that she has a voice to share with the world.
For some reason, God brought me back to a childhood scenario recently – I was perhaps in grade 3. My teacher back then thought I had vision issues because I’d squint my eyes to see; little did she know I did it because I learned to mimic what I saw my mom do at home sometimes. She also thought I couldn’t hear or speak because I wasn’t very responsive in class; but really it was because I was super shy, introverted, and scared. Subsequently, my teacher got my parents to get my eyes, ears, and speech checked. And though I was born a Torontonian, I was placed in ESL class to help me with my English. Now that I think about it, it was strange because I did well in spelling tests and did generally fine in the spelling bee. But on a more positive note, I guess learning in smaller group settings helped me excel more because I felt more at ease.
God has been reminding me lately of how ‘I have a voice’. Such a simple statement might seem very obvious but growing up I didn’t know what that really meant. I either was too afraid to speak or too broken and at a loss of words to express myself, or I just felt so overly defeated that I didn’t even bother to speak. But there was someone that extended a listening ear whenever I cried for help and she was always a phone call away – she was my por por (maternal grandmother). I remember I used to call her on the phone when I was scared and needed her help and there were times when she was the first person I wanted to share great news with, such as winning first prize in a piano contest.
Her existence was my reason and motivation to learn as much Cantonese as I could to communicate with her, and it was because of this that I realized language and communication plays such a crucial role in life. I wanted to dialogue with her to understand her story and how it is that she persevered through so much in life and how she held onto hope. But even much more so, I wanted to know who this God is that she prayed to consistently and why she even prayed.
I can’t say that I had super spiritual conversations with her in Cantonese but through her body language and acts of love that she communicated to me most of my life I was able to see, hear, and feel all that she expressed towards me. I remember distinctly that whenever I stayed at her place or she came to my family’s place to stay, at the end of the night she’d be kneeling on her bed praying the same prayer and part of the prayer was for God to protect our family. I know she may not have communicated the same way to each and every person in the way that I interpreted it but I know her intentions were for us to have the best that she could offer. And she knew she didn’t have much but she knew that whatever God gave her was more than enough and that she was grateful.
I can’t help but to think of this passage every time I think about her because she modeled this truth she learned through her relationship with God (which you may remember me sharing in the video that was recorded for WitnessTO before):
“I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13 (NKJV)
My grandmother really opened up the space and opportunities for me to have a voice because she was willing to listen, care, and encourage. But after she passed away when I graduated from high school almost 10 years ago, I fell away from God for about a year with a broken heart and felt like my world turned upside down. I had a voice, but the voice was one of denial that she was gone and it was a voice that lied about being fine when really I was having trouble swallowing the reality.
Many probably don’t know this but growing up I questioned a whole lot about my existence and there were many many times I contemplated taking my life. It was because God placed my grandmother in my life to remind me that I am loved unconditionally and that I was of worth that I didn’t take action on this compulsion. So to lose her in life, I questioned the purpose of continuing on with this life without her. You can read a previous post for more on that (Healing in the Midst of Loss).
But it was through this hard time that God helped me realize that there was more to life and that my grandmother left a legacy behind of how God transformed her life and brought hope – so what am I doing to carry this through to the next generation(s)? Step by step God led me to be a part of a church, get baptized, and to serve the youth in Sunday school and a highschool fellowship.
God gave me a voice for several things and that is to share with others about who He is to me and who I am to Him, to pray for and with others, and also to also build up and encourage others. Trust me, it’s not an easy task and in fact I’ve gone through numerous experiences of trying to find a way to escape from this calling by claiming, like Moses, to not be ‘eloquent’; couldn’t someone else do it? But God has also reminded me so much more lately that it is during times like these, when I am having the most difficult time to articulate what I am thinking and feeling, that instead of running away I need to face situations head on and take up the challenge to put together the words. It is through being able to piece together our thoughts and ideas into a coherent voice that we can make sense of out things but to also strive towards making the necessary changes.
As Henri Nouwen has written, “The more willing I was to look honestly at what I was thinking and saying and doing now, the more easily I would come into touch with the movement of God’s Spirit in me, leading me to the future.”
So how are you making your voice heard? Through prayers, conversations, a blog, vlog, art, or presentations? There indeed are many ways to do this. True, we must be careful with how we communicate (by speech and conduct) and it must be done with grace and salt, but where does this begin for you? How are we choosing rather than run from change to embrace change with open arms?
Here’s a passage that comes to mind that I hope will be encouraging to you all:
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
If you’d like to share your voice with us and with others, consider submitting your story to WitnessTO.
May you experience the freedom in Christ and be enabled to rejoice in the Lord always for He desires what’s best for His precious and chosen children you and I alike. May the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts truly be pleasing and glorifying to our Heavenly Father!
Image: Alicepopkorn / Flickr