To Steward: Your Voice

It was a foot-in-mouth kind of week for me. Are you familiar with the type? I have little to no chill in most area of my life, so no one should be surprised that I have a tendency to not only toe boundaries, but to plow right past them. When I’m writing, I have the luxury of the backspace button. But this unfortunately doesn’t exist in real time. I tend to say way too much, ask questions that are way too personal, and then over-share to try to compensate, instead of acting like a normal civilized human being with an ounce of social tact. That happened more than once this week both with a best friend and a stranger. But no sooner had I said far too much, I turned right around and said way too little in a different situation when I absolutely should have affirmed what a friend was sharing. Nothing like radio silence to make a friend feel known and validated, right? I don’t know why I do this… when I need to speak up and say something I freeze up, and when I need to shut my mouth I can’t seem to do so.

I either go way overboard or overcompensate and say nothing at all. And I don’t know which is worse— saying too much or too little. Words are stinking hard!

Praise God I’m not the only one who struggles with the whole talking thing…

“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:7-10).

God has given us language as a form of communication and expression. Like anything else, we can steward it well or we can steward it poorly. And if you survived middle school then you know the effects of both.

How do you steward language? What do you talk about? Are your words kind? Encouraging? Patient? Hurtful? Belittling? Empty and altogether meaningless? Marked by negativity or hope?

Luke 6:45 tells us that the things we say say something about us:

“From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”

What we say reflects what’s in our hearts. I didn’t come up with this, it’s Biblical.

So what’s going on in your heart?

Since what we say says something about us, I can’t help but wonder if what we don’t say also says something about us?

I read an article this week that more or less called out white, evangelical Christians, specifically women, for our silence on a series of humanitarian issues. I felt fifty feels at once: convicted and defensive, embarrassed because I’m guilty as charged and also scoffing that he was probably one of “those guys” (don’t really know what this actually means though). I felt like I wanted to hide and lay low but also speak up at the same time. I couldn’t sleep that night because I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks….

I talk about what’s important to me. We all do. We will sing praises like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir when we love something and literally invent ways to get that good news out to people (shoutout to  Yelp & Google reviews); but what about things that are wrong? There are certainly those who aren’t shy about vocalizing what they don’t like about this that or the other, but not this girl. I’m reluctant, probably to a fault, to voice things I don’t like. I was raised on the gospel of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. But maybe this isn’t a sound mantra, or even a Biblical approach. I’ve always believed that what I say says something about me…. But I’m beginning to think that what I don’t say says something about me too.

From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…

When we look at the life of Jesus we see that he was very quick to compliment, correct, and call out. He praised people for their actions and humility and simultaneously called out corruption and corrected people—not just the Pharisaic punks either, but his friends and family as well.

It is very clear from his speech and actions that Jesus was about what his father was about. From the abundance of his heart his mouth spoke… and it wasn’t all happy, feely-good stuff either. He spoke the hard stuff, the offensive stuff, the I-know-this-is-going-to-sting-but-I-love-you-enough-to-say-it-stuff. He treated people like people. He spoke dignity and love over the least of these. He advocated for those who could not, would not, did not, and likely didn’t know how to advocate for themselves. He loved in word and deed as well as in action and in truth.

Thinking back to the article I mentioned earlier, it asked why I, as a white, evangelical woman, am keeping silent about the unending series of humanitarian issues? Is it because I don’t feel directly affected? Is it because I don’t care? I would answer both of those questions with a resounding “No!” for the record. But it is interesting to consider why am I not outraged to a point of saying something, anything. It noted that the silence was deafening.

I could say that I’m scared, or that I don’t feel politically well-versed enough to speak up, or that I don’t know what to say or how to say it, or that I don’t really identify with a political party and don’t want to be associated with any by what I share, or that everything feels so tense and charged that this conflict-avoider wants to crawl into a shell and summon my yoga breaths.

I want my words to be filled with grace and seasoned with salt so that I can know how to answer everybody (Colossians 4:6). Plus, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all, right?

But this isn’t what Jesus did. He didn’t necessarily get into the weeds on taxes and governmental policies and he didn’t blast it on social media, but he sure has Heaven saw the least of these, cared for them, advocated for them; and commanded his people to do the same. I suppose what I’m finding is that the issues I have always thought of as political and therefore to be avoided (forgive me, I’m learning) aren’t exclusively political issues. They’re church issues, too. They’re about the poor and the sojourner and the accused, just like ones that Jesus noticed, defended, and loved; they’re about the people Jesus commanded me to notice, defend, and love too.

Let me say up front, I don’t know what it looks like to speak up and speak out while pointing people to Jesus. I honestly don’t know what it looks like to steward my voice and my words well, for God’s glory and for the betterment of humanity. I don’t. And when I look around I cringe as I see what is being said, tones that are used, accusations that are hurled. It’s intense and irresponsibly polarizing; and as a Christian writer, it’s stinking scary. I desperately want people to know Jesus and the thought of compromising my credibility (whatever the heck that means) and inviting people to tune me out based on my “political views” feels risky. But I know in my soul that God will get his message to whom he wants to get it to, regardless of the fallible delivery. So yes, I’m intimidated and I haven’t the slightest clue, but I’m committed to learning. I’m sure that speaking up will involve a lot of apologies and foot-in-mouth moments, but I’d rather have to apologize for trying than play it safe and say nothing at all.

I know I have so much (a shameful amount actually) to learn just to get caught up. I know that there are so many more voices that are far more articulate, more experienced and more educated than mine that have been crying out for years. I guess it feels like too little too late for me to say anything at all, but if from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, then may my mouth pour forth hope and dignity for all. Please note that there are no caveat exclusions in “all”. I want my heart to be so aligned with the heart of the Lord that my lips pour forth not only praise for Him, but hope for humanity. Not an ethereal distant kind of hope, but a tangible, right now kind of hope. I want to steward my voice like Jesus stewarded his… boldly, courageously, and unapologetically speaking hope and dignity over the marginalized and calling evil to repentance.

Obvs. I will not be able to do this without the help and guidance of the Lord. So here’s my prayer:

Lord, align my heart with yours. Help me to seek things that are bigger than myself, eternal things, instead of the selfish things. Give me eyes to see beyond myself and my situation. Give me compassion and empathy and grace for people unlike myself, both the haves and the have-nots. Give me the words to speak the courage to say them. And give me the divine ability to listen and the humility to learn. Help me steward this voice that you’ve given me well, for your glory and for the good of humanity. From this heart may my mouth speak.

Are you stewarding your voice well?

What do your words say about what’s in your heart?

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