For someone who successfully learned to project in drama class; cheerlead from the sidelines above screaming fans at varsity basketball games, I had to work hard at summoning the courage to express my thoughts and deepest feelings.
I was very happy to give the right answers in class, but when it came to sharing something very close to my heart, I would rather retreat and keep my thoughts to myself. I rarely felt smart enough; I didn’t know I had anything to contribute; and, often I didn’t want others to know my real feelings, for fear of rejection.
My journey to find my voice began in my second year of undergrad, when I was really disconnected from my parents emotionally. I was angry and disappointed, and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to express my heart to them. Because I loved them deeply, I was conflicted by my palpable anger and the subsequent guilt. In my mind, it would be entirely disrespectful and ungrateful to express my true feelings.
The result was misery. I was carrying around a sadness and aloneness I thought would never go away. Thank God for a really wise pastor. He saw my emotional retreat and began to probe. When I told him I don’t think I could ever say what I was feeling to my parents, he recommended I write them a letter. He encouraged me to be detailed and specific with my thoughts and feelings.
I remember weeping as I wrote that letter; I recall deliberating over whether or not to actually mail it; but when I did, it wasn’t long until I received a phone call from Mother and Dad. That letter opened a door to dialogue which essentially reconstructed my relationship with them. They eventually became my closest friends, with whom I could share anything.
My cousin, Joanne, helped me along the next step of this journey. The time was 1982 when I joined her and her husband Mark in a NYC church planting and founding of a Christian school. I was very comfortable sharing information in my field of expertise, but when it came to spiritual contributions to ministry decisions, I believed I had nothing to contribute.
One day in frustration, Joanne simply said, “Donna, you need to speak up! You have made observations and we need to know how you are feeling about this! You have wisdom and experience that could speak to this. Start speaking up!”
Wow; no one had ever asked for my spiritual input before. So, I slowly began to offer observations and gingerly contributed thoughts and ideas. The result amazed me. The interchange of thought and ideas that began that day was actually the foundation for a developing think-tank which had great results in ministry.
The more I expressed my thoughts and ideas, the more I realized I had certain convictions that were worthy of consideration. One day I was really pleased when Dr. Daisy Osborn suggested to my dad that I join an evangelism panel that included Dr. Daisy, my Dad and a number of other esteemed ministers. When I answered a specific question during that conference, I saw my Dad lean over and stare at me. Dr. Daisy smiled and said to him, “You didn’t know your daughter was so smart, did you?” She had a gift of encouragement that helped me that day.
Jesus also had to encourage me to speak up. Anything I have done in ministry: preaching, verbal spiritual gifts, public prayer and faith declarations…all have been challenges others had to draw out of me. Speaking for God was something that intimidated me, because I just did not want to be wrong in representing Him.
In all of these areas, I learned to break through by having a deep relationship with the Scriptures, a willingness to exercise faith, and a total reliance on the Holy Spirit. Physically, my heart may have been pounding out of my chest and my palms may have been sweating, but when I did as the precious Holy Spirit impressed me, the results astounded me. I found out that the power of God working with me actually gave me a voice He created. My voice was His.
Not long ago, I felt as though I needed to have a more powerful faith confession. I tend to be very analytical and often my thoughts could hinder my faith. So, I decided that for an entire year, I would read the entire Bible out loud. It was my favorite read through the Bible. Not only did my faith jump to a new level, but my understanding of certain passages increased and revelation poured into my spirit.
On this journey, I have learned the enemy tried to use intimidation to keep me quiet. When I retreated relationships were hindered, wisdom was withheld, and the word of the Lord was silenced. No matter what I may have feared to result from expressing my heart, God taught me how to be true and transparent without being argumentative and accusatory.
God has given me a voice and a boldness to communicate his heart. He is teaching me to come out from hiding, and be courageous to say it, out-loud.