I spoke at a women’s event recently. I had been asked to speak on a topic close to my heart last April, so I’ve had this on my mind for 10 months.
I had been encouraged early on not to research for my presentation, to speak from my heart and not from my head. If you define research as “intentionally seeking out information on the topic,” then I did not research. If you define research as “note every tidbit you encounter on the topic in a big file and then sift through every single bit of it as you finalize your preparations,” then I did research. I had quite a bit of information compiled.
Paring my thoughts down to fit into a single 45-minute workshop was a significant accomplishment.
Afterward, while feedback from the audience was positive, I was disappointed. Some of the disappointment was centered on my perceived inadequacies as a speaker, but that was only a small part of it. Why I was so dissatisfied was a lingering question for a couple days as I mulled over several possibilities in my mind, and I have come to this conclusion: I have so much more to say.
A person I consider to be a mentor told me that I needed to seek a larger audience than my current context was providing me. It took a long time to figure out what he meant, even though the idea instantly resonated with me. I think I’m figuring it out though. My circumstances then were not providing me with an opportunity to use my voice. I have sought to enlarge my context in several ways, and I have noticed that when I have and take the opportunity to speak my own words, my own story, I am more content and less aggravated by the actions of others. Still, I have so much more to say.
I decided last summer to return to school to pursue my lifelong dream of being a therapist. Because I am going to school part time, it is going to take me a number of years to complete my degree. The time and dedication demands of school on top of my already busy life is much more manageable because it is something I find inspiring, and I am happy knowing that I am fulfilling a long-time aspiration. I am working to have an outlet in the future, but in the meantime, I have so much more to say.
Last winter, I read “In the Likeness of God” by Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand. Dr. Brand was an orthopedic surgeon who worked primarily with Hansen’s disease patients, more commonly known as leprosy. Leprosy is known for its characteristic deformities and lesions. Dr. Brand pioneered research that helped discover that the actual wounds are caused by insensitivity to pain. With the help of Yancey, he authored several books relating his knowledge of pain and the human body from a medical perspective to the church and Christian life.
After detailing the necessity of pain sensors in the physical body, he tells of a patient named Pedro who had a tiny spot on his hand that was still sensitive to pain due to a birthmark that had been long ago treated with dry ice. While the treatment removed the appearance of the birthmark, there were abnormal arteries in that location that kept the spot warm and unaffected by the leprosy bacilli. Having an area on the side of his palm, small as it was, that was sensitive to pain enabled him to test the temperature of a coffee cup before he picked it up to ensure he wouldn’t burn himself, enabling him to protect himself from further injury.
Dr. Brand proposes that the spiritual body is in need of similar pain sensors that are willing to cry out and make the rest of the body take notice:
In a church that has grown large and institutional, I pray for similar small patches of sensitivity. We must look to prophets, whether in speech, sermon, or art form, who will call attention to the needy by eloquently voicing their pain.
He tells of the prophets Jeremiah and Micah, crying out in anguish for Israel’s condition:
These prophets stand in great contrast to insensitive Jonah, who cared more about his comfort than about an entire city’s destruction. The prophets of Israel tried to warn an entire nation of social and spiritual numbness. We need to encourage modern Jeremiahs and Micahs and to value these compassionate, pain-sensitive members as much as Pedro valued his tiny spot of sensitivity.
When I read that passage, I had an “aha moment.” My life experiences have enabled me to be more sensitive to the pain in others, and I am compelled to cry out so the rest of the body will take notice and help protect itself from further injury.
All around me, people are bearing pain that is unseen by many in a world that moves too fast to pay attention to what is happening. People are suffering in silence because they think they are alone, that everyone else’s lives are as easy as the appearances they work so hard to maintain. When their pain is made known, it is often discounted by people who respond with trite answers and obvious solutions instead of truly listening to them. After so many attempts to be seen and noticed, a person gives up, especially when already weakened and discouraged by struggle. They need someone to give them a voice.
Clearly, there is so much more to say.
I have so much more to say.