By SARAH DAVIS
We sat on the front porch of the house as the quiet hours of morning made their transition into midday, when the heat begins to rise, and you have to swat the mosquitoes away. I followed my son outside after realizing he had quietly withdrawn and exited the house, his emotions at that moment feeling larger than his ability to process or handle. There was a whirlwind of outdoor activity around us. A guy who was smoking outside of a small business next door, cars that were buzzing to and from on our street, and two people were standing on the sidewalk saying goodbyes as they got into separate vehicles. Even with life happening all around us, it felt like it was just him and I sitting there unpacking big emotions, because nothing mattered to me more at that time than understanding what was on his heart, and nothing mattered more to him than my wanting to hear it.
It’s much easier to speak up and reveal the vulnerable stuff in our hearts when we have the attention of someone who is listening. Not just hearing in the sense of perceiving sound the way I can hear the garbage truck outside my house or my dog snore softly, but the type that happens by consciously choosing to concentrate. It’s the person who puts their elbows on the table and leans in to absorb your words as you speak. They turn their phone over and opt not to check it for a moment. They don’t interrupt you with their own thoughts and opinions until you are done speaking. And if they’ve really mastered the art of listening, they can discern when to give space to what was said by not offering the “right” response. How much easier it is for me to speak up in those moments.
The hard truth is I find it easier to be vulnerable from behind a computer screen. There, I can process and choose my words with careful forethought and consideration. To engage one-on-one or in a large social group setting? That is far harder. And while my computer gives the illusion of safety, it also feels inauthentic, restrictive and leads to silent frustration at my inability to simply be me and offer what I have inside to the world. Why is this my tendency? What lie do I believe about myself? I began to probe for the reason and pray over the why.
Somewhere along the way, I realized I began to believe that my voice didn’t matter, that no one wanted to hear what I had to say. So, when I spoke up and someone spoke over me, it was because what I was saying didn’t have value because of someone else’s inability to listen. So without conscious intention on my part, I began to remain silent and blamed it on my introverted tendencies because it felt more comfortable than facing the rejection of not being heard.
It can feel disempowering to feel like you aren’t being listened to. It whispers the lie that what you have to say doesn’t matter, and no one wants to hear it. It will steal your voice and your opinion and cause you to remain silent when you have something worthwhile to say. Maybe your story is similar to mine. If so, I don’t know what may have happened in your life that tried to steal your voice. I don’t know what lie knocked on the door of your heart and you allowed it to come in. But just as God is showing me my heart, I know He can show you yours.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT: When I have chosen to ignore the nudge in my heart to speak life and truth and what I’ve learned on my journey, I rob others of the gift of my unique perception and experiences. If you are reading this aAnd can relate, don’t deprive others of your voice. There is someone who needs your words and your story. I urge you to ask the Father to reveal it and bring truth to your heart today. May you find the courage to show up, even when you can’t control the outcome, knowing that you have value whether or not someone else has the ability to recognize it. Not your story? Pray to be a more attentive listener. That’s something we can all grow in.
PRAYER Father, thank You for Your words in Jeremiah 1:9, “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth’ ” (NIV). Thank You for giving me a voice and choosing to speak through me. Remind me of this in moments when I’m feeling inferior or lacking confidence. Help me to remember to give the gift of an attentive. listening ear when I want to be quick to fix versus quick to listen. And thank You for always truly listening to me. Amen.