a beautiful risk: why your voice is needed
Well, I decided to start a blog. Initially the idea came to me as a way to record my travel adventures and share them with friends and family back home. I’ve always loved to write and I’ve been learning more and more about just how powerful our words are. As the ideas flowed, however, I realized that I wanted it to be more of a window into the things I’m learning and the ways that God is continually shaping and molding me. Besides, I take way too many pictures for there to be any mystery as to what I’m doing or the places I’m seeing here during my time abroad. On top of that, I already had an idea of what I wanted to share first—a parallel God had drawn for me during a hike through the Cinque Terre, one of the places I visited in Italy.
So, I began to write. In the initial excitement and zeal that accompanies a new idea, my fingers flew across the keyboard and I felt that their speed was hardly adequate to release the thoughts that were flooding my heart. The memories, the images, they were all being transported effortlessly from my mind to the screen in front of me. This lasted for all of twenty minutes. I got about halfway through and then I stopped, hesitant. I was now getting to the part of the story that went a little bit deeper, and writing with the intention of sharing felt...risky. Was it really a good idea to demonstrate vulnerability in my words?
Last spring some friends and I pulled together to throw a birthday party for one of my best friends, Brittany. We were determined to make it extra special, so we pulled out all the stops. Well, at least all the stops that our meager college student budgets would allow. We gave a makeover to the living room of my small apartment, complete with a “Happy Birthday” banner, streamers, a karaoke machine, and of course, twinkle lights. The kitchen table held a beautiful array of all our favorite junk food indulgences, plus a veggie tray for good measure. The best part? A lovely chocolate fountain surrounded by all the good stuff for dippin’.
7 o’clock hit and slowly the guests began to fill up the room, and the party began. Laughter, music, pictures, food- it was a good time. It took a little warming up for everyone, but the karaoke machine soon became a hit. We were dancing, singing, being goofy, and having a blast. I plopped myself down on the couch after my rendition of “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls and watched as my friend Parris took the stage. I don’t even remember the song, but I do remember that it was soft, beautiful, and genuine. Her talent wasn’t a surprise to me, but it did cause me to realize something. The rest of the partygoers, myself included, had chosen one of two options. There were the quiet, more shy performances where you could barely hear the singer’s voice. And then there were the over-the-top, hand-motion-utilizing, audience-involvement type productions in which the girl with the microphone made it clear that it wasn’t serious, that she wasn’t actually trying to sing. Most of us (ahem, me) fell under this category. Who said something about a flair for the dramatic? Well, then. What struck me about Parris’ performance was that she was unafraid to use her true voice. She didn’t sink back, but she also didn’t feel the need to mask herself with flamboyant gestures and a stage-performance persona. Instead, she sang audibly and steadily—with a voice that was her own. In doing so she took a risk, and her vulnerability was beautiful.
The point of this blog post isn’t to advocate the use of karaoke machines at parties, though it is great fun. I want to make a statement about vulnerability. It’s so easy for us to hide behind things- busyness, funniness, silence, or the weighty expectations of what we feel that we are supposed to be in the eyes of others. We create and monitor an image that is safe, because to actually reveal our true selves would be a risk. What if it isn’t accepted? What if it’s too much or not enough? This was my hesitance in going deeper with a blog. What if it wasn’t as insightful as this person’s, or as witty as that person’s, or as moving as another’s? At least if we’re hiding behind something, it’s not our true selves that will be judged, and that’s a bit more bearable. But the beauty of using your own voice is that YOU are the only one who can do that. We all have a unique perspective to share, glittered with insights from our individual stories. Each of our voices is needed.
So, I’m challenging myself with this blog to take a risk with vulnerability. I want to share the things I’m learning as I’m being stretched and experiencing new things on this grand study abroad adventure. I want to share highlights from my travels and provide glimpses into the ways in which God is working in my life. I believe the things we go through and the lessons we learn are for ourselves, but are also for those around us—to encourage, to challenge, and to bless.
Transparency encourages community because it opens the door for others to be “real” as well when they see that they aren’t alone. Like Parris’ song, I want to use my genuine voice. I invite you to do the same.
P.S. I didn't forget about the Cinque Terre post. Read it here.