There have been many times in life when I should have said something– I should have spoken up, but I didn’t. I remained silent because I didn’t think it was my place, or I wasn’t sure that I was right, or I didn’t believe my voice mattered.
I was quiet and shy as a child because I wasn’t sure that my words would be valued by others. Later, in my younger adult years, I was loud and brash because I was certain that my words were not valued by others. Later still I was open and earnest because I found value outside of others.
What I learned throughout that 15 year process is that people are going to attempt to dictate to you your value. Your parents are going to teach you all of the words that are acceptable, and they’re going to reprimand you for using any of those that are not. The older kids on the playground are going to teach you that your thoughts on the latest episode of The Magic Schoolbus are not appreciated. High-school will teach you all of the music, movies, clothes, and girls you can and cannot like.
I’m pretty sure college is supposed to teach you that none of these things really matter, but mine was a lot like a giant Christian high-school, so those earlier lessons, for the most part, were just reiterated.
My point being that I found myself as a 21 year old man-child unable to voice my own opinions and beliefs for fear of being rejected by my peers. I imagine it must be hard to be a conservative Christian and express your beliefs when you’re surrounded by non-believers, but it can be equally hard to be surrounded by conservative Christians and express your disbeliefs.
Over the last two years I started using my voice. At first it was a whisper, but over time it grew more bold. There is power in the tongue, the Bible says as much, and I found that the more that I spoke up and out, the more grounded I became in my beliefs. Often times that which we believe to be true, once spoken, becomes an axiom. Established fact in our lives.
I also learned that my fear of being ridiculed for expressing my beliefs was not invalid. I have been criticized for using my voice. I have been argued with, insulted, and slandered. I would be lying if I told you that those people’s words had no effect on me, because they did. I went back to whispering, and when that brought further ridicule, I shut up completely.
Honestly, I thought getting out of Jackson would be a great way to leave all of that behind; that I could start afresh and maybe be a little less of me and little more of whom people wanted me to be. That would be a shame though, because I’ve gone through far too much to learn that my voice matters to simply throw it all away now.
Despite what others may tell you, your voice matters– and my voice matters; it’s mattered all along.
Some people believe that their voice won’t count; that they’ve screwed up too much; their sins are too big. Having a voice is an extremely personal thing, and I understand why some people want to protect themselves by not using it, but I believe that is a waste.
Whether or not you agree with Invisible Children and the way they presented the whole situation in Uganda with their latest video, you can’t deny Jason Russell’s passion for voicing what he believes to be right and true. He was obviously moved by his experiences in Africa many years ago, and rather than thinking, “man, what’s going on in Africa isn’t right”, he founded an organization to give a voice to his convictions.
The more he spoke out for change, the more it became personal to him. It became his truth. I honestly think that Jason Russell believes 100% in the work that he has done.
Even with everything that has happened over the last week, Jason Russell’s voice still matters.
That’s how powerful the redemptive qualities of the gospel are; that’s how much grace our God gives to us. I hope that Jason Russell will not lose his voice. I hope that it grows stronger, and grows to encompass more truths. I hope the same for you and me. I hope that we would never cede that large a part of ourselves on account of public opinion.
I find myself continually thinking the same thought over and over again lately, and it is this, “Everybody is everybody, and you are you.”
That’s all it comes down to, really.