As children, we are unfamiliar with our voices. We don’t always know what to say, how to carry expression, and what volume to use when talking. When I was young, adults told me that there are two kinds of voices: an “outside” and “inside” one. It was not until I was older that I learned this philosophy had translated into churches and Christian culture. It seemed as if other Christians had assigned women “inside” voices—softer, less valid ones. Men were encouraged to speak, booming with authoritative tones, as if they were the only ones that had something to say worth listening to.
For years, I learned a way of silence. In the churches I grew up in, there were no female leaders. Women could participate in other ways such as Sunday school teachers, secretaries, or wives. I could never figure out why women were allowed to teach youth— the most impressionable time in an individual’s life—but were denied the opportunity to speak to their peers. I spent a year at a small conservative college that would not allow women to be the main speakers in the chapel services. Once, when a woman was behind the pulpit, several of the male faculty got up and left. I felt, as a woman, my voice must somehow be lesser—less loud, less valid, less true. These messages saturated my life. Gradually, I felt like my words deserted me. I was never sure of the “appropriate” time to speak.
A couple years ago, during a time of deep sadness and loss, a friend suggested I go out by myself and just yell my frustrations. I found an open spot, centered my body, and lifted my voice. I was startled by the sound of my own voice, rising upward towards the sky. I remember thinking it sounded powerful. Through the years, God has taught me that the time for silence is over. Women need to learn the power and validity of their voices. Women have been given voices as instruments that God intends for them to use—not in anger, but with the grace and dignity with which Jesus spoke. When I look through the pages of Scripture, I see that the words of women and men throughout history have been beautiful gifts from God. It is time we remember that our voices carry weight, that we hold truth from God on our tongues. The world needs to hear from us. It’s time all God’s children start using their “outside” voices.