“No one listened to me, so I stopped using my voice.”
My friend’s words disappeared into the animated discussion filling the room, but I reached out to catch them. It was an honest admission that needed to be received by another. I’m listening, I thought. Yet, I knew she was referring to a historic dismissal that had sought to silence her fiery spirit.
I grieve: For you to stifle your voice is for you to surrender a stunning part of your glory.
Another woman sitting directly across from me had tears welling in her eyes throughout the discussion. She showed clear evidence of exhaustion. Her profound gifts of empathy, wisdom, and discernment had been used and abused to the extent that compassion fatigue had nearly led to collapse.
I plead: Rest, dear friend, but don’t retreat from your calling; it’s so significant, so deeply valued.
The next day I spent time with a free-spirited friend who had invited me on an impromptu adventure. As we drove from Tennessee to Georgia, she recounted how she often feels misunderstood and marginalized by others, particularly in the church. She sensed that her zeal was off-putting, but to suppress it was to snuff her fire.
I cheer: Your passionate pursuit of God is breathtaking, and your hunger and thirst for righteousness whets my own appetite for more myself.
These recent encounters reminded me how we are each ezers, uniquely endowed with gifts that offer life, bring glory to God, and advance the kingdom. Ezer is a Hebrew word, which translates “life saver” or “strong warrior.” Carolyn Custus James writes, “God created His daughters to be ezer-warriors with our brothers. He deploys the ezer to…soldier with him wholeheartedly and at full strength for God’s gracious glory.”
Is it any surprise that we, as women, are often diminished, dismissed, or assaulted in the areas of our greatest strengths and gifts?
I recall an incident from childhood when my strength as a leader was attacked. I was settling into my cabin for a week at church camp when a trusted adult told a friend and fellow camper to dismiss me when I got too bossy. My face flushed red as I listened to the conversation and I fell silent, overwhelmed with confusion and shame. In that moment, I decided that I would not take charge anymore because, despite my good ideas and best intentions, it must be unpleasant for others.
When I think of that scene, I want to cry out: You are not too much. You have vision, know-how, and a pure heart. Keep offering.
Instead, I heard the refrain “too bossy” echoing for nearly 25 years. Then, one day I found myself invited into a position of leadership by a ministry organization I esteemed. I felt skeptical that I could satisfy them. Surely they, too, would discover my lack of ability, and I would be dismissed once more.
To my surprise, I discovered that leading came naturally to me and that the women serving alongside me responded to my leadership. Soft-spoken, steady, calm, and contemplative, I created space for others to rest, to be real, and to offer from their own unique strength.
Over time I have experienced redemption in the area of leadership, as well as other areas where I was distinctly and diabolically assailed. My desire to nurture, my capacity to bond, and my ability to speak once seemed a liability; now, I embrace them. Redemption has come through truth telling and tears, risking and relationships, naming and renaming. As a result, I have gained courage and confidence to offer without shame.
The wonder of a wound is that it can heal. We can shine in our strengths once again, and we can shine light on the strengths of others.
My story changed with the invitation of a friend, and “too bossy” was replaced by a new refrain. As I interact with my friends, I bear witness to the wounds that have strategically struck them. I grieve, plead, and cheer. I hold onto hope that the refrains echoing in their stories can be, will be, and are being rewritten too. Redemption is coming, ezers. Rise and shine.
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 21 years. Susan finds life in a beautiful story, an authentic conversation, worship music, and ultimately, in Jesus, the giver of all good gifts.