“Just promise me one thing,” I spoke in frustration and tears, “please, do not speak for me. I want to have my own voice!”
I stormed out of the room before my stunned husband could probe further about what I was hiding behind those words.
I missed the irony of my demand as I left the room to hide away.
I’ve been a pastor’s wife a long time. It’s a privilege, but as many pastor’s wives know, there is a cost to a life in ministry. Jesus told us to count the cost of serving Him.
But sometimes it takes us years to realize the costs.
For me, I’m discovering one cost is the freedom to speak what I feel deeply in my heart during difficult seasons of life. This may seem odd for a woman who speaks and writes with her ministry gifts. But I’ve learned that people can misunderstand your words and more often, your heart, and that can get in the way of Jesus being heard.
I once had a lady use my opinion as a club of authority to get her silly curtains in the church.
I confess it made me think twice before giving my opinion again.
But I’ve learned that careful is always my responsibility. It’s not about who’s right, but what’s right when it comes to serving people.
Too often I lose sight of that though when frustration or pain intersect with the passion in my heart. God gave me a voice and when I can’t use it, I struggle. Perhaps that’s why I write. All of us need certain moments where we are allowed to speak from a place of freedom.
A place of freedom to declare how much we really don’t care about curtains.
Or to shout that all is not well and we wish we could have one day where worry over the future or our people didn’t threaten to consume all the space in our head.
Or how desperately we want to be free to speak out of our grief, instead of our ministry role-even if it’s only for one day.
My frustration revealed a few things that day as I hid away pouring out my heart in a secret place.
Yes, there is a cost to serving in the kingdom.
But it isn’t a cost only for the pastor’s wife. It may be magnified for her because she lives under the eye and ear of scrutiny; but not one of us in the Church can afford to let careless words be spoken.
It feels as though the world has forgotten this as cruel words and a lack of civility fly through the air and across screens. We’ve criticized others, instead of ideas, and ended up looking like the person we despise when all the words are said and done.
When we disparage and ridicule others, it gives us a license to hate them and hurt them and make them less human.
I wonder often if this social experiment of social media and social platforms won’t be the very thing that destroys the social fabric of our civilization.
What are the consequences of so many voices and too many opinions?
But I worry more that the Church has forgotten this as hurtful words fly between brothers and scalding judgments between sisters, and many more to those outside the Church.
Sometimes it takes us years to realize the cost.
Maybe when James said, “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to be angry” (James 1:19) it was because he understood the cost to the voice of the Church when her words are many, her anger is rampant, and her listening grace is scarce.
Maybe she loses the power to be heard at all.
The Church should remember her responsibility to be careful. She must find a place at His feet to unleash frustrations and posture herself to receive His grace, knowing that He always hears her voice when she humbles herself in a secret place.
“But I call to the God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress and he hears my voice.” Psalm 55:16-17
My husband didn’t pressure me to speak that day and I’m grateful. He has learned to let me decide when I’m ready to speak about the struggles in my heart.
For sometimes the greatest power of the voice we have is when we choose not to speak at all. When silence makes it easier for grace to be realized and understood, and people to be rescued from the darkness of the hate and hurt around them.
When we care more about what’s right than being right.
Perhaps James understood that the greatest power of voice comes from a life lived well, humble hands reaching out to help, and hearts free from hate or anger.
May His Church find the grace to pour herself out at His feet before she ever opens her mouth. Then and there, may she discover it isn’t really about having her own voice at all, but being careful to make sure the voice of Jesus is always able to be heard.