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Lead Me On: Mouthy Mistakes

God gave you a voice–use it

I talk too much.

It's a habit. I talktoofast and talktoomuch.

Sometimes I could stand to zip it. I'm working on it.

However, I hate to contribute to what has been a common refrain in society–a common refrain also in some churches. The refrain goes like this: women might need to PIPE DOWN already.

God's opinion on the matter appears to have a refrain more like this: Do not neglect to use your voice.

If ever a story demonstrated that the clear voice of women matters to the God of the Bible, it would be the story of Pontius Pilate's wife.

Actually, there are a lot of stories. But in this one she really said something. And her husband really didn't listen.

It's interesting to me that her comments were included in the Bible at all.

"Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: 'Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night'" (Matthew 27:19).

Cue the music crescendo. These were the moments leading up to the cruelest, most tortured hours in the Christian story. Jesus was going to be killed and Pontius Pilate was about to turn him over to the people to start the process.

And his wife told him not to do it.

Remember the über-popular book called The Da Vinci Code? In my book club, we discussed author Dan Brown's fictional take on what got in and what got cut from the Bible, and his storyline about the monks who were allegedly excluding stuff about strong, smart women.

When faced with the story of Pilate's wife, even fans of Brown's books might be stuck with a one-liner retort like "Sorry, boys. You missed a spot."

I assume Pilate's wife had been instructed as a little girl and then many, many, many times throughout her life to be quiet.

But she is the one God used to say something to Pilate.

Renowned preacher Charles Spurgeon remarked on her boldness when he wrote in an 1882 sermon, "It shows a wonderful Providence of God that this lady was moved to send so strong a message to her self-willed husband–to beseech, to entreat, to implore–almost to demand of him that he let this just Man go."

The lesson sounds like one we have heard over and over: when it comes to societal rules or cultural norms or even stereotypically appropriate religious behavior, lean toward your inclination called IGNORE.

God seems to.

Instead, accept that we are all being called upon personally by this God to do something. If that, for you, is saying something, then pull a Pilate's wife and use your voice.

Our trick is not to confuse talking with voice. Having a voice is having a point. A purpose. Clarity.

Which is another problem of mine.

I was once speaking on the phone with my then 6-year-old son, and he kept repeating, "What? What did you say?" I finally said to him, "Can you really not hear me through this phone?" He replied with his longest and most thoughtful sentence up to that point: "Mom, I can hear you, but what do you mean by what you are saying?"

Kid, you just said a mouthful.

In other cases, we are told to be quiet, except when tradition demands we perform.

Like my daughter. Not long ago, her elementary school teacher told me that my daughter lacked confidence–she never raised her hand in class.

So I asked my daughter why she wouldn't raise her hand and speak in class. She gave me a withering look and said, "The teacher asks and kids raise their hands and I'm sitting there staring at the clock, waiting for recess and thinking, Shut up, shut up, shut up."

I think her confidence is fine.

Anyway, it turns out women actually do not talk too much–at least not more than men. The University of Arizona did an eight-year study, published in 2007, and found that men and women both average about 16,000 words per day.

So. It is good to hold common refrains in society–and common refrains in the church–up to the light of how God managed a similar incident with the Bible heroes who went before us.

In the case of Pilate's wife, her voice sliced through any common refrains of the time. "Leave that innocent man alone…" Pilate had already suspected the clamoring crowd was wrong and then came his wife's words.

But he didn't listen. At least, he didn't stop what was about to happen. He didn't stand up to the crowd–a crowd over which he ruled.

So her words influenced…nothing?

Her words should influence how women feel about their voices.

God is longing for you to use your voice. Don't give it up.

After all, not everybody listens like Pontius Pilate.

Janelle Alberts is a freelance PR and media relations specialist and has managed communication needs for clients such as Microsoft, Wells Fargo and UPS. She started her first religious column in 2010 for the Akron Beacon Journal and has since written for Atlanta Parent Magazine, Christianity Today's women's online sections, and Catholic News Service among others.

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