Voice Is About More Than Sound.

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I’ve been noodling on the concept of voice, her voice, and how crucial it is that her voice is spoken and heard. Voice is about more than the sound that comes out of our mouth.“Voice is a powerful psychological instrument and channel, connecting inner and outer worlds. The ongoing relational exchange among people is mediated through language and culture. To give up their voice is to give up on relationship and alas to give up all that goes with making a choice.” (Women’s Ways of Knowing)Recently some women shared that their church taught that submission means women don’t challenge, raise objections, or question their husbands.I grieved. This false teaching dehumanizes.Words are a means of communication. They express what’s on one’s mind. “In the beginning the Word was and the Word was God…” (John 1:1) In the beginning, God expressed (revealed) himself.Relationships are mediated through language and culture. Voice cultivates the capacity for developing and expressing thought. It connects the inner world to the outer world. The interchange of listening and speaking lead to knowing both our self and others. Voice is a way we enter into known-ness and community.Silencing a voice dehumanizes image bearers.After intently listening to these women share I suggested perhaps there is another way to view submission that actually requires we use our full voice.I shared a time when Steve was doing something in our family that was harmful. And I was determined to admonish (Colossians 3:16) and challenge him because I knew he was living below his potential. My husband is an amazing human being, and he was doing things that were way below him. I wouldn’t have it. I fought for him. I see my challenge and admonishment, not as a lack of submission but rather the exact opposite. The concept of submission can be to defer, to put under in order to lift up, or as Paul calls it, edify. To edify means to instruct and improve in moral and religious knowledge. To uplift. Build.Picture it - underneath pushing up towards more.I loved my husband too much to be silent, or as these false teachers would say, submissive.What’s fascinating was, just before leaving my house to be with these women, I grabbed a book on preaching. It’s a book I’d read before but something in me sensed I needed to scan it while on the plane.There was a whole section on how little girls are free to think and say whatever they believe, but around age eleven girls become socialized to reduce their voice. They are encouraged to use their voice to be nice and caring. Over the years, as I’ve trained women to teach the Scriptures effectively, I’ve found women struggle to live in their own voice. Not just their physical voice but in their ability to develop and express thought confidently.One author, who works with female preachers, asks her students to reflect upon their own voice, to describe their voices and how others have responded to their voices. As I read this on the plane, I too went through her questions to help me understand the story of my own voice. (I traveling and don’t have the author’s book with me nor can I remember her name so just know this is not mine.) Questions like:

  1. Give 3-5 adjectives that describe your voice (not your physical voice but the big picture of your voice.)
  2. How would you describe your voice as a child? (Words or images come to mind?) As an adolescent?
  3. When and where were you encouraged to use your voice? Where has there been permission given?
  4. Where have you been discouraged from using your voice? Where has permission been withdrawn?

Her questions helped me think through my own voice story. Reflecting back upon my young self I saw a girl who's voice was loud and free. I saw a little girl running around outside screaming as I played kick the can and hide in seek with neighborhood kids. I saw a girl who had freedom to speak truth. My dad was abusive. We openly spoke about it. When dad verbally attacked my mom I stood between them swearing loudly at him. (Occasionally I'd get hit, it was worth it.) As I worked through the questions I realized I'd been allowed to live in my voice - until the Church. It was in the church that I first experienced my voice being limited. As a female staff member I had freedom to speak truth to women. But, upon reflection, I came to realize my voice was heard amongst the male staff largely because of my husband. If he had not been on staff I'm not sure my voice would have been as well received. That realization made me feel angry, sad and devalued. These questions helped me unveil my voice history.These questions were forefront on my mind as I went to Indiana to host our final training for our She Can Teach. All weekend I listened (and watched) women present their sermons. Over and over again I had to push these women to live in their body and voice. A professor from one of the local bible colleges came on Saturday evening to observe our training. Afterwards, she shared that she spends her semesters encouraging young women students to fully live in their body. But she found these female students shrink back when they stand before the all white male leadership. She asked if I would come and speak with her female students about embodiment. (Yes, yes I absolutely will!)Let me ask, “How are you doing at owning your voice?”As women, we must reclaim our voices. As one author reminds us, “Everyone has a voice, and we don’t need to speak for them. Instead we need to understand and address the processes that steal their voices or the reason we aren’t hearing them.”