I am alone at a crossroads.
I'm not at home in my own home,
And I've tried and tried to say what's on my mind....
Now I'm done believing you.
You don't know what I'm feeling.
I'm more than what you've made of me.
I followed the voice you think you gave to me.
But now I gotta find my own,
When I was in the parish that I wrote about in Where God Hides Holiness, I would regularly sing this song during my last year of employment. I don't remember it that well from the movie Dreamgirls, but I do remember hearing it one day on the radio and bursting into tears at the truth it spoke about my life at the time.
It became the song I could come home and sing when I couldn't sing anything else. I could pray it over and over loudly or softly for God to hear, because no one where I worked would listen. They talked and told and pontificated and advised. But they didn't listen.
I, unfortunately, for a while, listened to them and not the voice of my own truest self.
Slowly, slowly, I began to listen. I found people who would listen. I quit listening to the voices that weren't helpful, but were diminishing and hurtful, including the ones in my own soul. They had talked enough.
I gave myself permission not to listen to them anymore. I even told a few of them to be quiet (not exactly in those words...more colorful, as I remember).
We listen to voices, ideas, advice, criticisms, and more each and every day. Voices that have the gall to tell us how we are feeling, to tell us we are not enough, and to tell us how they think we should do things or not do things.
These are not helpful voices.
Helpful voices may ask us how we are feeling or wonder how we are feeling. Helpful voices will tell us how our actions or choices have impacted another, and listening to their truth may be challenging, but speaking their true stories is not telling another what to do. Helpful voices actually just sit quietly much of the time and listen.
For me, I initially had to quit listening to the unhelpful and hurtful voices from others where I worked.
Then the hard work started: I had to silence the internal hurtful voices. I had to quit listening to those life-long speeches we all have in our internal dialogues - you are not enough, things never work out for you, you deserve to be treated badly, you will never be loved, among others.
I quieted them by telling them they weren't helpful, that they didn't speak the truth, or that they spoke from an experience that was no longer accurate in my life. And then I sat quietly every day for and listened for THAT voice, that quiet voice who had been whispering, "You are enough. Life can be hard, and you will survive. You are loved."
Listening for and to that voice is hard work. It takes focus and more focus. That voice is the voice of God. We don't like hearing that voice so much that when Jesus spoke with that voice, we silenced it with a violent death.
And we still do that...cover that voice of God with all the slime of hurtful words. Because frankly, listening to mean voices seems easier. Don't ask me why. Maybe believing the worst about ourselves and seeing our flaws with a spotlight is easier than speaking truth in love.
The ministry of Jesus spoke that truth in love and gives us permission to do the same to ourselves. We have permission to walk away from the voices that diminish and damage and silence that holy voice within us. We have permission to seek that voice that lives within each of us. We have permission to speak that voice to others.
We have a responsibility to be aware of our own words that diminish and damage and silence them before we speak or apologize when we speak them.
We also have an invitation to dig through the pain of the voices in our souls that speak words of hurt. My experience is that people speak words that damage because those are the words circulating in their souls. We have a call, even, as people of faith, to know ourselves, our wounds, and our pain. As Richard Rohr says so well, we either allow our pain to be transformed or we transmit it to others.
We have permission to listen to that beautiful voice of God within our souls that is loving and honest and aware and wise. Listen to that voice that may not tell us what we want to hear, but will guide us even through the darkest places on our journey. Listen to that holy voice that speaks more often with tears and laughter and innate feelings rather than intellectual mini paragraphs of well-organized words.
When I first started singing along with the song Listen, I could barely get out some of the words. Most of the words, actually. It's truth was too raw, too new for me to speak aloud.
The night before I left to begin my new adventure in Lexington, I sang that song one more time in the place that had been but would not be anymore. I didn't just sing it; I belted it out. I had that moment I suspect many singers (and I use that term loosely with me) have. I was surprised at the strength of my voice.
"That was me?" I thought.
And I listened as She said, "Oh yes ma'am. That was your voice."