Inspired by Elizabeth

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” Madeleine Albright

Asking me to choose a favorite moment in Pride and Prejudice is a bit like asking me to choose my favorite dessert. They are all so delicious; how can I pick just one? There’s the initial encounter at the Meryton Ball, when Darcy labels Elizabeth “barely tolerable.” There’s the moment in Kent when Darcy passionately, albeit reluctantly, declares his love for Elizabeth. Or there’s Darcy’s second declaration of love, saying “My affections and wishes have not changed…” SWOON!

However, what captivates me most in these scenes is not Mr. Darcy. It’s Elizabeth. Darcy, a formidable man, is met toe-to-toe, eye-to-eye, word-for-word by a woman of equal strength and substance. She calls him out for his rudeness at the ball; she rejects his insulting proposal; and later she admits her change of heart. To witness a woman navigating life and relationships with such a strong sense of self is powerful.

To watch a woman engaging the world with the courage and confidence to speak is inspiring.

In each of these encounters, Elizabeth must gather her thoughts, summon her courage, and voice the truth. That’s no small feat in a world where a woman was expected to accept, not challenge; to submit, not stand her ground; to observe, not participate; and to listen, not speak. And, to be honest, it’s no small feat for me.

I want to be an encourager. I don’t mean I want to be a cheerleader (though there are times when cheerleaders are needed). No, when I encounter people aching with grief, wrestling with faith, struggling in pain, or searching for purpose, I long to be a lighthouse in the storm. I don’t want to disappear, which is often so tempting. Instead, I want to remain steadfast, shining, and to extend words of truth, hope, and life.

I long to raise my voice on behalf of God’s truth. Sometimes the dissonance I hear among Christians and in church can be deafening. To name it can feel risky, disruptive, and unwelcome. Childhood sermons from 1 Corinthians 14 reemerge from memory, warning that “women should remain silent in church.” Yet, a message of hope and healing, forgiveness and freedom, love and calling burns in my throat until I declare it.

I ache to be a truth teller. Last year I remember sitting on my couch, watching declarations of #metoo fill social media. With each post, I felt compelled yet terrified to add my own voice to the outcry. With a deep breath and trembling fingers, I eventually typed #metoo. Naming truth began by speaking it to myself, then to a trusted confidante, and finally to others. As I experienced, a truth teller can invite and empower another person to do the same.

I want to invite others into the conversation. How beautiful to see women discover their voices, voice their desires, and begin to speak words to life! Encouragers, teachers, truth tellers, healers, visionaries, cheerleaders, challengers, and change makers—these voices are all so desperately needed.

Jane Austen created the heroine Elizabeth Bennett more than 200 years ago, and the world in which the author and character lived was radically different than today. Yet, how often are we, too, urged to accept, not challenge; to submit, not stand our ground; to observe, not participate; and to listen, not speak. Jane, Elizabeth, and other women who have found their voices and summoned the courage to speak inspire me to do the same.

Susan Tucker spends her days mothering her two teenage sons, teaching middle school English, and savoring rare moments of quiet and solitude. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her sons and her husband of 23 years. Susan finds life in a beautiful story, an authentic conversation, worship music, and ultimately, in Jesus, the giver of all good gifts.