|Posted by God Loves Women on November 11, 2013 at 8:35 AM|
If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know that I can talk. People’s experiences of meeting with me range from describing it as “the day the sky turned dark” as we chatted for many hours and it was night time and she hadn’t realised; to actually chucking me out of their house (in a nice way); to talking so much we got on the wrong train and it took us 45 minutes to realise. So talking is a thing I can do.
Something else you may realise about me quite quickly is that I have big issues with power misuse. Having experienced abuse of power to varying degrees in relationships, in a work environment and in church, I spend my life trying to address power misuse in varying degrees. This includes my rejection of the “Christian Game”. You may or may not be familiar with this game. It is a Christian version of the celebrity game, where one’s value as a Christian and the validity of one’s opinion is in direct correlation to the amount of influence and power you hold.
For a long time I put all my energy into shouting, with the hope that one day, people might hear me. The scary part was when people actually did begin to listen to me. The fact that I may actually hold some power, or influence petrified me. What if I used it wrongly? What if I got it wrong? Up until then the focus was trying to get people to listen, now they were listening, I had a great responsibility to get it right. Through conversations with some wise people I realised a) I wasn’t that influential and I needed to get over myself and b) I needed to stay true to what I believed. This helped and I moved forward in a much healthier way.
More recently I met with an amazing communications consultant, who helped me to work through some of the barriers to communicating my message. The main issues for me seemed to be that I refused to play The Game and am losing people’s engagement because I am disruptive, challenging, disturbing and not as people expect me to be. We focussed on why I was so worried about The Game and a few things came up including fears of losing sight of God, being silenced, and losing my sense of self. That somehow my identity had become rooted in being heard.
Soon after this meeting I spent some time walking along the beach, reflecting on what this all meant. The fear of losing sight of God feels very holy and right, but underneath that was the reality that my identity is less rooted in Jesus and more rooted in being heard. As someone who loves to talk, and has a calling to communicate, being heard is something I thought was part of the plan. Surely it must be! Why would I be called to speak, if not that people would listen to me?
As I walked along the beach I realised something, I have been playing by the rules of The Game, while resisting the desire to gain power. The Game says that being heard is the object, because being heard brings power. The Game says that the more people who hear and take on the message you bring, the more power you have. And although I wanted to resist the power, I thought that it was in the being heard that would fulfil my calling. And as I walked along the beach, a still quiet voice whispered to me, “You are called to be obedient, not to be heard.”
If my perception of “success” is measured in the same way as that of The Game I struggle so hard to resist, I’ve unknowingly become part of the system.
In the last month or so I’ve shared some of my issues with CNMAC. Though CNMAC has been a catalyst for my thoughts, as it brings to the surface issues that are often less visible in the day to day of life of twitter, it’s not really about a conference or awards. Fundamentally, I think the issues lie in where our identity and value sit. My wonderful friend Helen Austin (the blogger formally known as Fragmentz) has candidly shared her thoughts on CNMAC, and I am anticipating her blog on the subject. Some of the conversations I have seen include:
In short this is about being heard, by the most people possible.
To be clear, that is not the call of the Gospel, it is a marketing plan. We are not called to gain followers, we are called to make disciples of Jesus (not of ourselves). We are not called to be heard, we are called to be obedient. While our identity rests on being heard, it is rooted on whether people hear, and our success on how many of those people hear.
I say this all as someone who likes to be heard, I have spent a large chunk of my life trying to be heard, experiencing the terrible pain of being silenced over and over. I recognise how easy it is to build my life on the need to be heard, because that’s what I’ve done. Not because I wanted power, or influence, or favour. Almost in direct opposition to that, because I wanted to challenge structures of power, and speak out about injustice. And perhaps my realisation of this comes from a place of privilege, of having been heard.
On that beach I repented of being rooted in something other than Christ and asked God to help me learn how to be obedient, above all else. Since then I have faced opportunities where I could court favour and possibly increase the amount of people who hear what I feel called to say, or I could challenge things, perhaps losing favour and opportunities. In those decisions I have realised that I would rather that it all ended here, knowing I have remained rooted in Christ, than continuing to move forward marketing myself in order to be heard.
Perhaps it is ironic that I am writing this to be read. That I’m broadcasting these words for all, but I am discovering the issue is not in speaking the truth, it is in not fully inhabiting my soul. In somehow relying on others to feel validated or as having value. Jesus shared His message with all who would hear, but He made it difficult. He told parables so “when they see me they will learn nothing, when they hear what I say, they will not understand”. When eating with the gatekeepers of His culture, (the Pharisees) he insulted and offended them, and when He had an opportunity to perform miracles to the elite (Pilate and Herod) He refused. I will be obedient to God’s call, and I will speak out, but I choose to be rooted and found in Christ alone. I hope this will be true for me: “They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:8)