“Mommy, do you remember when you lost your voice?”
The question took me off guard. Although I don’t know what prompted the memory, my 4-year-old daughter was referring to last winter when I got really sick and could hardly talk. But that’s not the first thought that popped into my mind when she asked that question. I remembered something altogether different.
I lived a long season of my life without a voice. For reasons I still don’t fully understand, I felt voiceless for most of my formative years. I wanted desperately to please everyone else, and I hated the thought of disappointing others. I thought speaking up would make me a nuisance, and I worked hard not to inconvenience anyone. Other voices were louder, more important.
Nobody ever told me that my opinions or needs didn’t matter; I told myself. I believed the lie of insignificance that I re-played in my mind. I lost the voice that God had given me at birth; the one that speaks what’s true: “Because I matter to God, I matter.”
It’s easy to see how I ended up married to a man who reinforced this voicelessness. It was natural to simply default to his preferences, if that’s what kept the peace. The pattern became so familiar to me, that after a while, I didn’t know what I needed – or even liked – anymore. I just conceded to what he wanted, because it was easier that way.
Years later, after he left (because eventually what he wanted didn’t include me), I remember how difficult it was to make even the smallest decisions. I didn’t know who I was anymore, much less know how to make a choice for myself.
I vividly remember standing in the Target aisle, anguishing over shower curtains. I had to pick one. But I just couldn’t figure out what in the world I liked. I stood there for what seemed an eternity. How could I choose between seashells or stripes? What color scheme would I settle on? There was no one there to tell me what I should like better. No one to speak for me. I had no choice but to find my own voice.
Thankfully, I did. (Eventually.)
Someone had recommended that I take the Ultimate Journey at House of Hope. I was in my late-twenties, separated from my husband, breaking free from some religious bondage, and trying to figure out who in the world I was. It was a turning point for me. I just knew that taking those first steps of my healing journey would change everything. And it did.
Through my “Phase One” class and the supportive community at House of Hope, I learned some important things about myself. First, I started to believe that I really, truly do matter. And that it’s not selfish nor inconvenient to have an opinion, need, or even preference. I also realized that utilizing my voice might make some people uncomfortable – especially if they had been accustomed to a different version of me. But that was okay. Because additionally, I discovered that it wasn’t my job to manage anyone else’s thoughts, feelings, and responses. (Can you tell – I also took a class called “Boundaries?”)
I love the redemptive story that God has woven over the years and the way He chooses to use my voice now. I write. I speak. I preach. I teach. I talk too much most of the time! He not only re-claimed my ability to speak up, but He has put His own words in my mouth to share with others…to speak out!
Since I first encountered this community over 12 years ago, I have connected with hundreds of women at House of Hope. And I have noticed that voicelessness is not a struggle unique to me. “You don’t matter” is a common lie that the enemy loves to tell women.
“Someone else will tell you what to think/believe/do.”
“You have nothing important to say.”
“You have no right to say ‘no.’”
“Your opinion doesn’t matter.”
“Who do you think you are?”
I want to answer that last one for you (I know – the irony of that statement is not lost on me!). But if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I hope that “who you think you are” is a treasured and beloved daughter of the Most High King. In other words, a princess!
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
And a princess who is lavishly loved by her Father knows the beauty and power of her own voice. Because it is a treasured gift from her Daddy.
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet!” (Isaiah 58:1)