Blissfully, one part of my job at JustFaith is writing. I have recently begun revising and editing documents for the program that is my primary responsibility. Writing, and brainstorming writing ideas with another program writer, has made work days fly by in the best possible way, the how-did-the-time-pass-so-quickly- this-is-so-much-fun-we-could-go-on-for-hours way. I had done some other writing before now, but what I've begun is a process that will last for the next few months. I am excited!
A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece for our newsletter. I told a part of my story - how my relationship with the organization actually began many years before my employment there and how JustFaith had influenced my life, including my decision to commit to Christian Peacemaker Teams in Palestine. My article also included 4 peacemaking practices I am trying to live. Since writing the article, the fact that I wrote it first and foremost for my own learning has become obvious.
In my article I listed 4 simple and crazily difficult practices: 1. Look people in the eye with compassion. 2. Speak your truth. 3. Listen. Really listen. Really, really listen. 4. Practice gratitude. The one that has haunted me most (in the best possible way) is this: Speak your truth.
This skill has never been my forte. I do an OK job of writing my truth...sometimes. However, I am reminded of the times I have censored my words because I was afraid of who might see it and what those people might say. I am reminded of the fact that I removed my name from this blog because of who might see and what those people might say or do as a result of the truth I write. I have acted as if I am doing something wrong by sharing what I know.
I am doing nothing wrong. I am trying to shed light on darkness. Furthermore, speaking my truth here is not such a risky business. Maybe I'll upset some people. But writing what I know to be true will not get me beaten. I will not go to prison as a result. I will not be killed. Even if those were the consequences, I'd rather suffer for truth and right and justice than cower in fear while others suffer for no good reason at all.
Today I gave a talk at church about my experiences in Palestine. Every time I prepare for such a talk, I review my slides,often adding or changing pictures. During every review of the presentation and my photos, I feel my body tense and my heartbeat quicken as I remember witnessing (not even experiencing, but witnessing) the trauma that Palestinians experience on a daily basis. The systematic breaking down of people (Palestinians) by people (Israelis). The assault on human dignity. I say in my talk and write here that I am not trying to say all Palestinians are good and all Israelis are bad. I do not believe it to be true and it would be a simplification of the reality. However, there is a system of oppression at work and the power of that system belongs to Israel. I hope that sharing what I have seen of this reality will in some small way ultimately change it. In all likelihood, I'll never know the results of my actions, but I will continue to speak and write with hope.
I must speak and write with hope because along with the systematic breakdown of people by people, I see the resilience of the human spirit - people who suffer for no good reason and are unwilling to give in to hopelessness. I hope that my sharing their stories through the lens of my own serves to amplify their voices.
Today I won't tell stories of Palestinians. I won't even tell much more of my own story except to say this: after an absence from writing, I am ready to raise my voice again here. I am even learning to let difficult words pass not only from my fingers to a screen, but through my vocal chords.
I am realizing that the claiming of one's voice, even when that voice comes out shaky, is powerful. The act is hope-filled. When I began to connect reclaiming voice, or said another way, being most fully the people God created us to be, as a hope-filled process, I revisited one of my favorite quotes:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
- Marianne Williamson
Using my voice, speaking my truth, being who I am is liberating for me. Inviting and allowing someone else to speak truth and accepting his or her truth only increases the space for liberation, the room for us to breathe in a way that is satisfying, peaceful, hope-filled, and ever-expanding. This act of inviting others, by the way, is where #3 of my practices - listening - comes into play. But that is a theme to explore on another day.
I pray that all of us learn to speak more clearly the truth that we know and to honor others by listening and accepting their truth. I pray that the space of liberation that comes from being who we are expands beyond our comprehension of freedom.