As long as I can remember my mother has been comparing me to my father. "Of all the children, you are most like your dad," she would say. I have probably heard this from her more than a hundred times. And I hated it every time she said it. Especially when I felt controlled and demeaned by my dad. When I saw him as loveless. Unable to care. Mean. I hated that she saw me this way.
But that isn't what she meant. This past week, as she spent two hours talking about awful things in her life and I listened, I finally knew what she meant. She saw me as strong. She saw me as courageous. She was so proud of the fact that I can speak. She is amazed that I am able to say what I want. She envies that I have learned to stand up for myself. And others.
That, I'll take.
It's been hard work, especially in the issues with my dad. Learning to stand up to him has been more difficult than I can express. Learning to speak when I know others may not want to hear what I have to say has been tough. Even now, when I do it so much more, it's still hard.
But I believe speaking and courage are gifts I have. I believe it is my duty to use these gifts for the benefit of others. That is why I have fought so hard to develop them. I am still better at using my voice through writing, through the safety of my own home, but I am getting better at opening my mouth and speaking when it matters. And when it's wise. (Teasing a snake isn't brave; it's foolish.)
Today I feel compelled to use my voice to share some truths. It's much easier to say I believe than to say I know. Today I must share some things I know.
I know that you are important. I know that your tiny presence in this world matters. I know that you affect more than you know. I know that you are worth many times more than you believe you are. I know that you deserve a good life. I know that the hard times in your life strengthen you, even when you don't see it. I know that you have a good work to do.
I know that I matter. I know that speaking truth matters. I know that I have strengths and wisdom I am unaware of. I know that allowing God to work through me makes the best use of these strengths and wisdom.
I know there is a God. I know that He is our Father. I know it as surely as I know that I breathe. As clearly as I feel air enter and leave my lungs, I feel His presence in my life. I have two-way conversations with God. I speak. I listen. He speaks. He listens. He strengthens me that I may continue to do hard things.
I know being kind matters. I know our hearts are happier when we exercise them more, when we love openly. I know strengthening others strengthens me. I know lifting others lifts me.
I know God is aware of me. I know He loves me. I know He is aware of and loves you, too. I know He communicates with us even when we don't hear Him. I know it's worth it to keep trying to hear Him.
I know He is there in the darkness. I know He would take away all our pain and suffering and trials if that were best for us. I know He allows our hard times because, like a loving parent watching a child receive an inoculation, He knows more than us and knows what will help us combat all that life has in store.
I know that whether you agree with me or not you are so important. I know you have the ability to change the world. I know your voice matters.
Please don't think this was easy for me. It's difficult to testify. I have been ridiculed and punished for my beliefs many times in my life, often by people I loved. But the fact that it's hard will not stop me from speaking. Because it matters.