Who Are We Amplifying In All This?

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Ruthie Johnson -Who Are We Amplifying3When I first started going to my church, I was introduced to several charismatic practices. One was receiving and understanding prophetic words. These words were small messages, tucked into prayer that resonated in my soul. Sometimes it was a simple phrase, a question or a statement. Nonetheless, they held power. When spoken, they reverberated with affirmation in my soul. I would leave times of prayer in wonder asking, How did you know to pray that?

At other times, I was given images, consistent pictures of the work that God was doing—often unseen—in my own heart and mind. They’d remind me that I was being faithful, when I didn’t understand. They would clarify my moments of darkness and confusion.

These words and images became anchor points, woven together by the presence of the Holy Spirit, like a long string of lights reminding me I had not lost my way. They were exercises in learning to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice over my own doubts and confusion. They were moments of practicing how to join “…what the Father is doing.” —John 5:19

Voice. This word has lingered, haunting me as I have struggled to find its meaning and place in my life. The word comes at the most inopportune times. What does it mean to use my voice? What does it mean to trust that others hear the voice of the Holy Spirit through what I have to say? How do I know when I am speaking out the message of the Spirit? I understand the timidity of Moses. How often have I asked God for someone to speak for me!

Between my high-context, communal Asian brain and my Enneagram nine-ness I am predisposed to thinking collectively. I like the safety of a group. I prefer to use we-and-us language over writing me or I. I like the idea of supporting each other rather than standing out on my own. I even see this play out in where I write. I much prefer being part of writing collectives like SheLoves or Mudroom than amping up my own blog (Don’t look at it—it’s paltry, at best.)

Voice. As I’m finding my way out of a wilderness season, I’m reminded of these prophetic words. Like a bird migrating its way back after winter, they’ve come back into my life. But to me this word is rife with contention. “Voice” becomes conflated with self-interest. We have so quickly designed a world where we need to promote to get ahead. We need platforms and networking. I need enough instagram followers or re-tweets and likes. I have to have a pitch and a certain appeal.

I grow wary of networks and marketing. I’ve never been the popular kid. What message are we amplifying? We like to speak about empowering the marginalized, about the need to be intersectional, but what is our motive? Do we lift up these concerns to make ourselves look more socially aware? Do we say things to relieve our own consciousness? To display that we are just “enough” justice-oriented that we placate our guilt about the societal imperfections we are drowning in?

My heart struggles. Who are we amplifying in all this? I don’t want my voice to lose its power or precision. I don’t want to speak to amplify the wrong things. My words have power to form, inform and shape. I need to use them wisely. I don’t want them to be broad brush strokes that follow the buzzwords of culture, but ones that have staying power. I hope it’s truthful, calling out to point to growth and renewal, showing there’s a higher way.

Like in Hebrews where we’re told about the voice of God. It divides, piercing our motives, exposing our hearts. It’s a voice that amplifies who we are before God. It undoes every piece of pretenses so we can enter that Holy rest. Jesus’ words take us apart to build us back up. Is that what my words, what our words, are doing for each other?

One of my favorite verses in the Bible talks about God increasing and us decreasing. (John 3:30) The noise of who we think we should be decreases as we become increasingly in tune with who God says we are. Like those prophetic words and moments of prayer that led me to God, I want to show others what it means to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. I want to amplify the intimate way God knows our hearts and speaks to our being.

Collectively, I think this means pointing to the greater narrative of who God is. How is God reflected in Jesus and embodied in the Spirit? What does it look like to encourage each other to find God in the places we live, write and socialize? I think it means sharing stories and experiences, exhorting each other to do the highest thing—not just the popular thing.

The Spirit’s voice is found in living out the tension of truth and grace—being honest with our humanness and brokenness, looking for God in the darkness. It also means celebrating and rejoicing with one another—laughing, singing, having FUN! (Kitchen dance parties are my favourite.)

In an age where we measure voice by analytics, retweets and likes, what does it look like to amplify a clearer image of Jesus? The Jesus who was a refugee with no place to lay his head. Jesus, who affirmed women and children and showed us a Kingdom full of those we least expect. Jesus, who did not seek out platforms and to glorify himself, but continually pointed us to God.

Let’s amplify that Jesus together. May He become more and we come less, because more than ever we need a right-vision of Jesus that is not blurred by patriarchal theology and politics.

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Ruthie Johnson
I’m a kid at heart who found a great job in higher ed doing what I love— crossing cultures & teaching others how to be Jesus through their ethnic identity. I have a Master's in Communication Studies and focus on critical race theory, postcolonial theory/theology & identity studies (yah, I’m a nerd). I believe in God’s multiethnic kingdom (for the now and the not yet). I believe that it takes collaboration from people of all tribes, nations and languages to work towards shalom & reconciliation. When I’m not hanging out with students, I write, read, cook and art. Join me as I navigate the blurry lines of multi-ethnicity and try to find a little Jesus in the midst of it.
Ruthie Johnson
Ruthie Johnson

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Ruthie Johnson
  • You’ve made some really good points here — cautionary words. Whenever I put anything out on my blog, one of the things I weigh carefully is my voice: Am I sounding shrill? Am I seeing the whole picture or treating readers to my precious opinion? It’s so important, as you said, to see Jesus first, and then to speak or write.

  • Helene Burns

    Thank you for your thought provoking words Ruthie… I have read through them several times this morning and they have pierced through to my own heart. I am so aware of my ‘inside voice’, the thoughts and intents of my own heart as I read through yours. A scripture that I often pray was awakened in me again from Psalm 19…
    ‘Forgive my hidden and unknown faults. As I am Your servant, protect me from my bent toward pride, and keep sin from ruling my life. If You do this, I will be without blame, innocent of the great breach. May the words that come out of my mouth and the musings of my heart meet with Your gracious approval, O Eternal, my Rock, O Eternal, my Redeemer.’
    I am praying this over my life again today… blessings to you. xx

  • CDK

    “The Spirit’s voice is found in living out the tension of truth and grace—being honest with our humanness and brokenness, looking for God in the darkness.” Thank you for this. I think this is one of my favorite pieces by you, Ruthie. Really beautiful and so much of your heart, here.

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