Though My Voice Shakes

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I’m going to let you in on a little secret: 95% of the time I feel entirely unqualified for the life I’m living.

I have an incomplete Political Science/Literature degree. I dropped out of Bible school, I’ve spent the majority of the last 18 years as a stay-at-home mom and pretty much everything I know, I’ve learned from documentaries, conversations and independent reading. I have zero credentials. I have no certificates on my walls or letters behind my name to legitimize my voice.

I speak … though my voice shakes.

Last week I was invited to lead a sharing circle on reconciliation for an office of the Government of Canada. When I got the invitation, I called the coordinator immediately to clear up the confusion. I was pretty sure he’d emailed the wrong person. I explained to him that I’m not really anyone; I have no credentials and I’m not an elder.

“You are a writer and an activist. You are a person with a voice and a story that needs to be heard.”

I sat in silence for a few moments and felt the weight of his words, the truth in those words.

I am a writer.
I am an activist.
I have a story.
I have a voice.
I am a person.

And another truth echoed back to me from my very soul: If the only credential you had was your own, personal, human experience, that would be enough.

This is a truth I am learning. Slowly. I grew up in a home where I was taught a university education and degree was the first step to a successful life. I tripped on that first step and I know I disappointed my parents when I left university before completing my degree. Because of this, I have lived these last 20 years with a sense of being a bit of a fraud.

There are things I know, things that are a part of my soul that I feel compelled to speak out about, but I always ALWAYS have a moment of pause before I open my mouth. There is always a split second where I question the legitimacy of my knowledge—the strength of my voice—because I do not have the credentials to back my perspective up. The skills and knowledge I have acquired over these years don’t translate to a resume very well.

This is what I wrestle with–constantly. But I can also tell you these split seconds are getting shorter. These moments of hesitancy are becoming weaker. I can feel that lie of legitimacy fade each time I lift my voice for justice and truth.

The very first time I sat in a justice circle conversation with Idelette she closed our time together by saying that none of us had the right to remain silent. We had been talking about oppression and privilege and the power of compassionate listening. Those days, in that first circle, were transformative for me. For too long, I felt that I didn’t have the right to speak because my lived experience was so different, so much more privileged, than those who sought and needed justice.

In those hours spent in that circle I began to understand that my privilege can be a platform and my words can be a weapon in the resistance. My privilege and my words need to be my weapon in my resistance for they are the best and only tool I have. My words speak to my experience—of living and of listening—and they are the vehicle I have to further justice in my own circle of influence. Furthermore, my silence becomes a weapon of oppression, it becomes my passive consent to injustices I see and know. And that is not acceptable to me.

So, I speak … though my voice shakes.

I speak up in my government representative’s office. I speak up in my church. I speak up around the dinner table, at my in-laws’ house and in my churchy-church prayer meeting. I speak up when friends make a casual comment on a news article. I speak up in front of hundreds and I speak up when I am writing in a quiet library cubicle, all by myself.

My words are my weapon. Not to do harm, but to bring freedom. It is for the freedom of all that Christ has set me free. And the key to this freedom is my words. It is by the testimony of my mouth (or fingertips) that the message, the Good News, of the freedom Jesus brings is propelled forward. It is through my voice that others get to know that Jesus came to end oppression and poverty and death and violence. It is by the truth of my witness that we move towards a just world.

And it is by your words, your witness, your voice, too.

Ten months ago, I committed to not only say “yes” to God-appointed opportunities, but to leap into them with wild abandon. It seems like these days I am leaping daily. It’s terrifying and I often wrestle with that familiar sense of being in over my head. But it’s only terrifying for that tiny second after I leap. That moment where my feet leave the ground and all I feel is air around me.

After that second, I realize there are wings that are out-stretched on either side of me, wings that are catching the wind and lifting me. The wings are carrying me, taking me to places I’d never dreamed of. The wings are the truth of the stories I carry. The wings are the message of freedom, soaring forward.

And so I speak.

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Nichole Forbes
Nichole is just a regular gal loved by an extraordinary God. She believes in community, justice, freedom, reconciliation and the sacredness of storytelling. Her journey to connect with her Metis culture and history has been her own liberation song. She tries to live bravely every day and say the kind words that need to be heard. She raises her three Not-So-Wee-Ones in the middle of the Canadian prairies with her favorite person ever—her husband, Brad. Nichole blogs, writes and speaks on the things that fill her heart and frame her world. 
Nichole Forbes
Nichole Forbes

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