Write. Teach. Speak.
These were the three things God placed on my heart after He told me to take a year off from seminary. At first, I thought “Uhm, okay, isn’t this stuff I’d be doing in school?” Of course, these things have been harder than anything I’ve done in school… except maybe my intermediate accounting classes during my undergrad. Those were hell.
So, I texted my friend Sarah something along the lines of, “Do you wanna start a blog that is like, about Jesus but not a Jesus blog? To keep each other accountable to writing more?” Step one, check.
Teaching isn’t new to me, but teaching from the Bible is. Beyond Bible studies and some daily devotionals, I have limited experience in the field. Naturally, when I was chatting with my pastor about what God had been teaching me and what I wrote in my blog post, he said, “I have a challenge for you. Teach this on Sunday.” Step one and a half– mini panic attack– check. Step two is still in progress as I seek out teaching opportunities both formally and informally.
This has left speaking. I’ve had circling conversations about the blurry boundary line between teaching, speaking, and preaching. Everyone I asked came to different ideas, but I had a strong feeling that God wouldn’t command two things that were the same if He meant just one command in different contexts. He could’ve just told me to teach in all contexts and left the speaking part out.
I had begun to envision the possibilities. Lectures? Conferences? Carefully crafted speeches? They all sounded like things that required more complex outfits than my standard jeans and t-shirt. There are few things I hate more than wearing professional clothing. I fear it may turn me into Meredith from The Office.
The lack of conviction to give up my band t-shirts and my loathing of most conferences made me think this wasn’t the calling of my heart. Then I felt the Holy Spirit at my elbow, nudging me towards bold honesty. “Speak.”
That small moment made me realize that I was probably overthinking it. I’m not being called out for lying, or for deceiving, but for keeping quiet. “You see things that people don’t,” a friend once told me over cigars. “You need to say things more.” God is asking me to speak, not once, but always. A lifestyle change, habit, and practice built upon a value. With my ability to see comes my responsibility to speak.
Throughout my life as a believer, I’ve been told I have the gift of discernment—an ability to perceive truth in things, even when they are uncertain. It doesn’t mean I’m always right, but that I have an uncanny ability to notice things and piece them together. I can usually sense when something isn’t right, and at times, I am a bit of a skeptic. Honestly, I don’t speak to them much. The vast majority of what I notice and see I won’t speak to unless I feel it is extremely important.
Now I’m being called out of silence. Concerning spiritual gifts, Paul writes, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7) Have I been speaking to what I see to benefit those around me? Eh… sometimes. When I’ve felt I couldn’t possibly contain what I was seeing without imploding, I’ve spoken. And I’ve lost some loved ones.
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:5-6) This verse has been heavy on my heart this past week. Anyone who has openly rebuked without regard for the possible damage to a relationship has not kept friends for too long. I’ve always waited until what I saw was so unbearable I had to say something. Some have gone from my close friends to ghosts, while others have begun seeking my thoughts out more often. Do I trust wounds from my friends?
Have I let people close enough to risk that?
Do my friends trust me enough to risk that?
Time to find out, I guess. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be asking my friends for rebuke. To learn to speak, I need to practice listening. Can’t dish it if you can’t take it, right? The promise is that I will walk in humility. I will not be defensive. I will not retaliate. I will not rebuke quid pro quo.
I refuse to fall into the trap that license to speak is license to dominate, harm, or control. “… Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12) License to speak is a responsibility to edify others. It is language and rebuke that brings about the betterment of the receiver. Wounds from a friend can only be trusted when they are rooted in love, which means they also have to be willing to listen to how they’ve hurt you. If you’re good friends with someone who has never stepped on your toes, you’re probably not that good of friends.
My pastor spoke on forgiveness last Sunday. He reminded us that God’s goal is always relationship, ultimately with Him and also with others. Because in relationship we are comforted, challenged, and grown. Relationship and commitment to God, however, will always come first. For this reason, the command to speak means to interrupt oppression, be quick to encourage and empower, ask hard questions, and not shy away from conflict out of fear, but embrace it with love. The family holidays will be an interesting time this year.
On a sober note, I’m embarking on a deep dive, a soul search for my voice. A voice I can be confident in and surrounded by the support and love of my friends. This time, the support I’m asking for is rebuke. If I haven’t asked you but you have constructive criticism for me, please reach out. I’m literally asking for it. With answered prayers, a much more self-aware woman will be writing to you in two weeks.