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When A Woman Finds Her Voice

I can't recall an election year that has generated more interest and excitement than the current one. One of the "moments" that captured a lot of attention (as well as considerable flack) was when Hillary Clinton, campaigning in New Hampshire, dropped her professionalism and her stump speech to speak simply and transparently from her heart. You can see what happened here.

Looking back on that moment, the senator in her primary victory speech reflected, "Over the last week I listened to you; in the process, I found my own voice."

Whatever the pundits may be saying about Hillary finding her voice in New Hampshire (and many believe it turned the election in her favor), I am personally fascinated by what happened to her and troubled by the notion that it is actually possible for us, like Hillary, to do a lot of speaking, teaching, writing, communicating, not of politics, but of the gospel without finding and employing our own voices.

"It's a man's world," we're told. To succeed as a leader, we must adapt ourselves to the world of men. We must learn to think and speak like a man.

While I don't want to discount the importance of understanding men and how they think and operate, we aren't men and are giving up something central to who we are if we lose ourselves by imitating them. We end up distancing our very selves from the message we proclaim. We can routinely prepare and deliver messages without connecting our words to our own hearts and struggles, without tapping into the rich perspectives God has given us as women or drawing out of our personal histories with God.

What does it mean for a woman to find her voice? Some are quick to reduce the discussion to emotions and tears. But that explanation is far too simplistic and doesn't account for the fact that a lot of men choke up when they speak about something they care deeply about.

For me personally, a better example of a woman who found her voice is Ruth the Moabitess. Ruth saw the world through the eyes of a woman, of a Gentile outsider, of a scavenger in the grain fields of Bethlehem, and above all through the eyes of a follower of Yahweh. Her "own voice" emerges out of her richly complex perspective. She speaks from her heart, from her true self, and in using her own voice becomes a powerful agent for change in Israel.

Her words reach the ears of Boaz, a man who knows how to listen. He listens to this new voice - this female voice, this voice that speaks out of poverty, this foreign voice that dares to reinterpret Jewish law.

Boaz is a landowner who carefully observes the letter of Mosaic gleaning laws. But the gleaning practices of Israel look very different when you're living on the hungry side of the law. Ruth possessed a perspective Boaz lacked. The letter of the law says, "Let them glean." And Boaz complied. The spirit of the law (according to Ruth) says, "Feed them."

Ruth's perspective opened up new possibilities Boaz hadn't considered.

What does it mean for a woman to find her own voice? I'm still pondering that question for myself. But in Ruth's case, it meant a new perspective - a missing perspective - was gained. It meant the conversation between men and women, about God and his word and what it means to follow him in this world, grew richer and deeper. It meant Boaz, through Ruth's leadership, discovered a whole new ever-expanding realm of obedience to God. It meant God's people learned to sacrifice in greater ways for the good of those in need, and that the kingdom of God shone more brightly in the fields of Bethlehem than they would have otherwise.

Seems to me we need to work on finding our voices too.

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