Voiceless No More

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In the way that texting while driving is a bad idea, blogging while wrestling with anger is also a bad idea. Both are dangerous distractions with the potential to put serious dents into bystanders.

I’ve not been posting as frequently lately because anger has been flashing like a check engine light on my car’s dashboard. Something needs tending to. I submitted to self-imposed silence and listened instead (well, mostly.) With the Lord’s help, I’ve needed, again, to examine what was going on under the hood before going any further.

I think it started with reading an innocent hashtag on Twitter: #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear. What followed was an unexpected mass chorus of voices expressing the pain of living in a religious system that kept -or still keeps- women voiceless. I may have added a few tweets myself. A lot of dashboard lights flashed on the internet last week. Not everyone was comfortable with the spontaneous outpouring that exposed more misogyny than they realized was a normal part of many women’s lives. Exposure is embarrassing and uncomfortable for everyone. Push-back from onlookers called for cover-up or, sadly, invalidation.

Here’s the thing, you can’t forgive what you don’t acknowledge and you can’t clean up corruption when it remains covered up. (We learned that lesson when our son-in-law almost died from undiagnosed flesh-eating disease.) Sometimes healing involves mess or pain first.

I discovered I still had more forgiving to do because listening to other women’s (and men’s) painful memories triggered some of my own. There were still some lingering lies I accepted about God liking men more than women. They were planted in my soul as a result of observing the way women of my mother’s generation were treated, and their resignation to silence and subservience to men as the norm. The seeds grew as I was taught to interpret scripture in a way which ignored the character and practice of both Jesus and Paul. (Paul wrote the words to Timothy I was told imposed a gag order on all females for all time in all places, but he also praised women like Phoebe, Junia, and Priscilla who were obviously not silent.) There was still some toxic residue in the unseen corners of my heart that kept me from saying with all honesty, “I thank God he made me a woman!”

The Lord and I have been working on that together. He is the one who establishes my identity. And he likes me.

Then Christianity Today published an article which asked the question, “Who is in charge of the Christian blogosphere?” The author suggested that female bloggers who write about spiritual matters should be under the supervision of denominational or institutional authorities who are credentialed and better educated in matters of proper doctrine. (Which proper doctrine the author doesn’t say.) The article, and responses to it, triggered another memory.

One of the most difficult times in my life was when a physician who specialized in voice problems prescribed a season of silence. I was less talkative then, but people who know me will understand the enormity of the challenge.

I had finished studying, rehearsing and performing the role of Amina in Bellini’s opera, La Sonnambula, a few weeks before. I caught the flu before ensemble rehearsals began. It morphed into a long-lasting nasty cough monster that barked in a register much lower than my usual coloratura soprano range.

The role of Amina is a kind of vocal high-wire act involving agility, stamina and a lot of very high notes. I was onstage most of the opera singing not only solos but duets, trios and other ensembles. A run-through of my music took nearly 90 minutes. You can imagine how much time was involved in practice to learn the role.

My voice was not recovering fast enough. It sounded okay in short sessions, but it didn’t feel right, and I was worried about stamina. Reluctantly, I spoke to the producer and director about my doubts in my ability to perform. The response was not what I expected. The director said, “I believed in you. You disappoint me! If you don’t sing I stand to lose $10,000 of my own money I invested in this production.” I felt the pressure and forged on.

Nerves were a bigger problem than usual on opening night. I knew I was forcing at times. Except for one embarrassing note on the final night, I made it through the performances though. The standing ovation and bravas from the audience almost made up for the burning pain in my throat.

Two weeks later I sang with another orchestra and choir. I had only two solos in a Bach cantata which should have been easy, but I struggled. My voice was not responding as it should. I made an appointment with the laryngologist.

He said I had the beginning of nodules. That statement feels like a death sentence to a classical singer. I was scared. He told me to rest it completely for several weeks – no talking and definitely no singing. I followed his advice and my vocal folds did heal. I didn’t need surgery, but I learned some things in that time. 1) I yelled at my kids more than I thought I did. 2) People don’t talk to you if you don’t talk to them. 3) I didn’t appreciate submitting to authorities who were more concerned about their own project than my long-term well-being. 4) Being voiceless made me feel powerless.

You may express yourself in other ways, but perhaps you can still relate. My voice was my strength because it made me relatively unique. I could sing over a full orchestra and eighty voice choir without a microphone. My voice allowed me to comfort others and bring the joy of music into their lives. My voice was my vehicle for creativity and emotional expression. I was wrong, but at the time I felt like my voice justified my existence. People listened. They asked advice. Musicians I admired included me, gave me a place among them on the stage, and treated me as though I had value. Without a voice, I had no place in that world.

About ten years later chronic health problems meant I had to give up singing almost completely. I grieved deeply. I hated being voiceless. But my heavenly Father can use all circumstances and I grew because I learned instead to lean on the Lord as my source of justification for existence. Eventually, he led me to fill the void with other creative expressions. One of them is writing and blogging. I had a voice again, but this time it served a larger purpose.

When I read the CT article it felt like the people who were willing to sacrifice my voice to serve their own agenda had shown up again. I believe in the wisdom of an abundance of counselors. I believe in mutual submission, and yes, my husband does read and approve of my blog, not because he is my master, but because I respect his perspective. I have deleted and revised and parked articles in the draft file indefinitely on the advice of people I trust. But that’s the operative word – trust.

I wonder if the strong backlash to the article could be coming from people who have also lost their innocence when it comes to the lack of transparency of “experts” in positions of power. Yes, we need to forgive, but forgiveness does not mean trust is automatically restored. The type of servant leadership Jesus demonstrated is something we still need to strive to attain when it appears the response to error is more silencing control instead of more healing grace and better communication of love. We need more of the kind of discipleship training that encourages believers to have their own senses trained to discern right from wrong through practice.

The point of leadership is to produce competent graduates, not more dependent children in pews.

The point of the exposure of corruption in the body and submission to the kind of correction the One who loves us perfectly brings is to purify and build up this Church of living stones.

I almost posted two previous versions of this blog article. In them, I gave more evidence for the reasons for my distrust of some ecclesiastical hierarchical authorities (not all!) and defended my educational qualifications. Twice I felt the Lord saying to let it go, deal with my own heart issues, and start again. Learning to hear God for ourselves means responding in obedience. Sometimes submission to his advice means speaking up and sometimes it means hitting delete. Holy Spirit provides the fruit of self-governance in his gift basket for a reason.

The internet is like the printing press that triggered the Reformation. Blogs provide more people with the freedom to speak up. I believe we are on the brink of another Reformation in which greater numbers of the priesthood of believers will rise and raise their voices in praise to the God of our salvation who sets all the captives free.

I am not voiceless anymore. I don’t need the approval of people I don’t trust. I do need the approval of my Lord.

May the words that come out of my mouth and the musings of my heart
meet with Your gracious approval,
O Eternal, my Rock,
O Eternal, my Redeemer.

(Psalm 19:14 The Voice)

To my fellow Christ-centered female bloggers, and to all my brothers and sisters in Christ no matter the form your expression takes, I urge you to use your voices! May your sound go out into all lands and your words unto the ends of the world.

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9 thoughts on “Voiceless No More

  1. I hear you. I was aware of both the Twitter hashtag, though did not take part, and also the Christianity Today article, which I thought seriously about responding to at Bread for the Bride but didn’t trust myself to do so with enough grace (and still don’t). As one Christ-following woman blogger to another can I just put on record that I believe your blog to be an enormous source of encouragement, grace and edification for believers, women and men, and I for one am glad to have found it. This is not a hobby you are playing around with, it is more than even a release of creative expression – it is ministry, it is sharing of your God-given gifts with the wider Body of Christ, which is exactly what we’re supposed to do, right? Your words and photos often carry healing, or edification and encouragement, but always minister to others from a place of love, humility and beauty. There are many believers whose only source of edification and fellowship is the internet and your writing, combined with the stunning artwork you share, is vitally needed in the Body of Christ, as is the unique and gifted input of many other female bloggers. So, who’s in charge of Christian cyberspace? The same One who’s in charge of anywhere else Christians gather – the Holy Spirit. Could it be that God has just got tired of waiting for institutional Christianity to catch up on gender issues and is providing this wide-open internet space as a place where His women can freely express the spiritual gifts He has bestowed on them with the Body of Christ, unhindered by gender rules? I believe so. Thankyou for remaining faithful Charis! I am blessed to be in this company of Christ-following female bloggers alongside such as you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Cheryl! You are an example of one who knows how to encourage and lift up people to become all that God intends them to be. Your support means a great deal. I do believe the internet is a gift from God. Thank you for your kind words about the blog. I only give what I have freely received. Ah! And there is another advantage. It’s harder to exert control over someone who is not on a payroll. Many blessings on you and Bread for the Bride. You continue to feed and nurture us, beautiful blogging lady.

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  2. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Charis. I need to go back and read that article again (I think I’ve read it once already—but sometimes I lose track of what I’ve read). One of the many things I love about Jesus is that He respected women and treated them as equal to men. As long as we’re prayerfully and soberly heeding the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I think we should have the joy and freedom to blog about biblical issues as freely as anyone else.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

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  3. Charis, I so appreciate your voice! Your photos are exceptional and your writing, thought provoking. Also I relate to some of your struggles, having come from a legalistic Christian background where women were silenced. I also have dealt with anger, offense, bitter root expectations to name a few. However, we all need each other, no matter what our sex, ethnic background or whatever can separate us. Sometimes, the religious spirit gets in the way of open communication. Jesus called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. Serpents are associated with the enemy of our souls. It is my belief, that many will have a Damascus Road experience, because of the mercy prayers, prayed for the persecutors. God wants to heal our souls, so we no longer have hooks, for the enemy to bait us. I have found Katie Souza’s videos on YouTube helpful. She came to know the Lord in prison, serving a long sentence, that was miraculously shortened. Katie was quite the criminal but began to learn about healing the soul, “From all the junk that was in her trunk.” I am working my way through healing my negative emotions. She talks about the blood of Jesus and then the dunamis resurrection power that means excellence of soul. Believers have the resurrection power in their spirits and it needs to go into our soul to heal our wounded souls. None of us can go through life, without many soul wounds. Once they are healed, we no longer have so many negative emotions. Katie Souza website: https://www.expectedendministries.org or check out her videos on YouTube.

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  4. Pat Joyce

    Charis

    It’s critical that Christianity speaks truth and the acceptance of tradition that limits women because of gender has to go. It’s been my passion since the Lord opened my eyes in the 90s. I have not read the article but if it stirred up a response it makes me smile. I’ll see if I can find it and add my voice to the chorus.

    Keep on writing. Your voice is clear and a ministry to so many of us.

    Blessings,
    Pat

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