When I was younger, my father used to tell me about listening.
"You can't spend the entire conversation thinking of what you're going to say next. You have to listen. Really listen. Repeat what they tell you so they know."
I've spent my whole life listening. At some points it was a weakness. I sat in the corner, content to stay quiet despite the words pulsing deep in my veins. I chose to desert those words in fear of judgment or misunderstanding or feeling unworthy.
In September, I sat with women who shake the atmosphere when they enter a room. I listened as one of them said that our generation knows how to share our stories. What we lack? The doing.
"Our generation knows how to get things done to a fault," she said. "Your generation may need to take a page from us in learning how to follow through..."
And while there may be an element of Truth to what she said, I think really what we need to learn is how to witness. And not the evangelical hype of Romans Road. I'm talking about the looking-in-the-eye listening while a sister shares her story.
We were the first witnesses you know. Our sisters saw Him outside of the tomb and didn't run in fear or find a way to platform their revelation. They listened. They saw. And then they turned and spoke of what they experienced, repeating His words to anyone who would listen.
On Friday, I entered another room of women. To say I struggled with identity is an understatement. I was running away when a friend caught me by the arm and wrapped me in a hug.
"I've been watching you." She said. "And I wanted to send an email but decided to just wait and tell you in person..."
And then she spoke into me—claiming her place as a witness to my life and what God's been building. I felt seen, and took my place at the table with the shaky confidence of one who's unfolding has just been repeated back to her.
And Saturday, when I woke with the hazy memory of my awkward fumbling the day before, a whisper cut through to the core of me.
"Claim yourself." She said.
And so I did.
In January, Story Sessions held a twitter party. We spoke of women and creativity and how we can build each other up instead of create competition and jealousy between us.
"Champion. Don't compete." One of the newest members stated. We latched on to her phrase. It was one of the most retweeted comments of the evening.
Champion. Don't compete.
Witness the unfolding—don't be so quick to find the loophole in which you can catapult yourself onto the stage with them.
Over the past few months I've been practicing more of lectio divina. And what this teaches me is to sit and wait and listen for the whispers of God.
What do you have for me here? I ask.
And He answers.
In the Spirit language only Him and I know, He whispers things in my heart and it's up to me to follow through—to pay attention.
But often times I don't like to listen. I fight the Truth or the challenge or the offering of love or the surprise because that's too scary or no one's told me that before or that's totally opposite to where I thought I was going...
But He's gentle, and keeps whispering, witnessing my own struggle and repeating back to me the Story He's created for me.
When we all try to play the same note, it sounds like a dirge. But if we take to what we know we do best—what sits at the crux of who we are at Spirit and heart—that's when the harmony kicks in, when our dirge turns into a freedom song.
And so I wonder what would happen if we quit comparing. I wonder if we began listening for those whispers—or if we took the chance to ask what's next. I wonder how we can grab the arm of another woman near us and celebrate her for who she is and what He's doing through her instead of comparing how many book sales or blog post shares or babies mama'd or pounds lost or whatever brushes against your deepest wound.
Maybe we'd be less likely to burn those at the stake who think differently. Maybe we'd take a risk and ask other women—women who maybe even haven't ever known a stage before—to speak. Maybe we'd lift our eyes and see those around us who need community.
Maybe we'd look them in the eye and speak into them what we see: a gifted woman waiting for someone to witness her unfolding.