9 One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Don’t be afraid. Continue speaking. Don’t be silent. 10 I’m with you and no one who attacks you will harm you, for I have many people in this city.” 11 So he stayed there for eighteen months, teaching God’s word among them.
Perhaps most of us don’t know what it is like to experience a vision from God, but maybe you can understand Paul’s trepidation about speaking up. Personally, while I haven’t had any visions from God, I have had the experience of needing to speak up and feeling afraid to do so. Looking back now, I have definitely felt the Holy Spirit encouraging me to say something on behalf of people in need, despite me not always realizing it, or even wanting to get involved in the situation. Once, I wasn’t even sure how I really felt about a particular subject, but I knew I didn’t want to be involved!
For me, it was like that experience in school when you were sure that you didn’t want the teacher to call on you; that time when you silently pray, “Don’t pick me! Please, don’t pick me! I really have nothing to add here.” But in a flash, of course, I was being asked to speak up about injustice, about the church’s love (or lack thereof) for the LGBTQ community. I really felt that it was not my place to say anything. However in a moment of complete shock to me, there I was standing up, in this case, for this marginalized community within the United Methodist Church. There was definitely some holy nudging happening there; except it was more like a gong going off in my brain, saying, “Speak up!” Despite my misgivings, suddenly all eyes were on me and now everyone was listening.
I won’t bore you with the specifics, but only that I could not have stopped myself, even though I really wanted to. What I did do was to make an observation about what church hospitality looks like and/or doesn’t look like. I can’t claim that I always get things right by the Spirit, but only that when we are listening to the Holy Spirit telling us to “speak up,” we will be heard. So don’t be afraid to speak up when internally you know that you should. Instead, I encourage you to ask the Holy One to stay with you while you do!
By Barb Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Perhaps you know that you need to speak up about something, but you feel afraid or hesitant. Maybe you are just shocked or overwhelmed, or you feel you missed an opportunity to speak up for the lost, the lonely or downtrodden. Perhaps you know that something needs to be said, yet you also feel it isn’t your place to say it. Don’t lose heart because there is still time. Who or what cause is the Holy Spirit asking you to speak up about? How can you see yourself doing this? Whenever I think about speaking up or having the courage to do so, my go-to prayer is always the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change; the courage to change the things that I can; and the Wisdom to know the difference. AMEN.