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  • Writer's pictureLeena J.

Learning to Raise My Voice



I went to listen to a speaker today. I love attending events like this...events that enlighten, rouse curiosity and even activism, events that broaden one's thinking and bring attention to issues that may otherwise go unnoticed.


Today the speaker was author Kathy Khang. Kathy recently published a book entitled "Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up". The book was a gift from a friend of mine, who happens to be an old colleague of hers, and its contents are so deeply resonating and uncomfortable that when my friend invited me to hear her speak I immediately felt compelled to go.


It is rare to hear a woman speak from the pulpit. ANY pulpit. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to hear my pastor's wife, a pastor in her own right, speak to the congregation in my former church. And when I say congregation, I mean the ENTIRE multi-ethnic, multi-generational congregation...women AND men.


But aside from those few experiences, I have never heard a woman give a sermon. It would not have been possible in the church of my youth, a large Korean church in the middle of Los Angeles. Actually, if I had continued to only attend in Korean churches, I would probably have NEVER heard a woman preach.


Yet here today was Kathy Khang, a Korean-American woman from the Midwest, speaking boldly with both wisdom and grace at Fuller Seminary's weekly Chapel. I sat there riveted by her words and her courage. And it dawned on me that as much as I resonated with the truth of what she was saying, inside I was cringing. Because for every word that she uttered with boldness, I remembered words that I wrote that I never dared to share, stories that I never dared to show, experiences that my soul justified away...to be safe...to not call needless attention to myself...to not rock the boat...to keep the peace.


I would have just continued to sit there uncomfortably, and would have been perfectly content to leave right after Chapel without meeting her in person, but I found myself following my friend to the more intimate brown bag lunch with Kathy...and to my horror, I also found myself verbally participating in the conversation not because I felt that I had something important to say, but because a startling and terrifying realization had begun to dawn on me.


What was terrifying is this:


If I do not learn to use my voice, how will my daughter learn to use hers? Who will be her first (and lasting) example? Can I afford to keep silent when I have a full-blooded Korean daughter growing up in a fractured America? If I am not the role model she needs, who will fill in for her?


Someone else, that's who.


Someone who isn't her mother, who doesn't love her more than life itself, and who may not always want the best for her.


In the vacuum of her mother's voice and example, my daughter will likely look elsewhere.


And as quickly as that realization came upon me, so did its answer: it is imperative that I learn to use my voice. It is incumbent that I figure out the purpose of my voice. I don't have to be loud (I am an introvert after all) and I certainly don't have to be antagonistic, but I DO have to be willing. Willing to take a chance, willing to learn, willing to be dismissed and/or ridiculed and/or minimized by others who have more power, more authority, more clout. I have to be willing to speak yet be ignored...at least for a time. It will be how I grow into my voice...how I grow into my own fragmented identity.


Because I'll be damned if my daughter grows up to wear the burdens of my fragmentation and lives her life believing that her silence is God-ordained and evidence of a godly humility.


Because it is not.

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