Anne Jackson didn’t set out to write Permission to Speak Freely when see posted a simple question on her blog, annemariemiller.com. “What is one thing you feel you can’t say in the church?” The question spread like wildfire around the world through Christian and non-Christian sites alike. It is a topic that has bothered me since I was a teenager. Why do we as Christians shun each other for not being perfect. I have written so many times about the mask we wear saving ourselves from judgment and rejection. What would others think of me if I said this? Can you imagine Jesus telling the people He hung out with, tax collectors, murderers, prostitutes, “Okay, now when we go in the Temple pretend to be someone else so that we are accepted.” Yet when we as Christians go to church, the answer to’ “How are you?” remains, “Fine.” because we’re afraid what others would think if they knew the truth. It’s ludicrous! You know why this book became a fast favorite for me. My book has many underlines and notes that I love to re-read, mostly about fear and shame. Anne also confesses much she realized about her own life while writing.
Anne was overwhelmed with responses. She turned them into a beautiful book which, besides her excellent commentary, is full of poetry, quotes, artwork, and pictures of handwritten answers to her question. Anne states the book “came from places in my own heart and life where I was afraid to say something inside church or to other Christians.” Fear kept her silent, and she needed to know she wasn’t alone. Once I told my pastor, who was also a friend, about my childhood sexual abuse when I had started therapy, and he simply stated that I would be surprised how many women at church have gone through that. No I wouldn’t. He never spoke of it again. Later I told him about being raped, he apologized and sent a couple emails with scripture in them.
My other favorite part which I use on a regular basis is when she talks about the ‘gift of going second’. Simply put, this is the concept that by speaking first in any, but especially in difficult situations, you give others a gift, the courage to also speak up because they know they are not alone. If you have ever received it, it is a beautiful gift. When you are able to pass it on to someone else it fills your own heart with strength and healing and you can just watch others relief at your words.
Near the end is a truth which I try to live by and seek to do for others who honor me by reading my writing.
Each time we decide to take a step away from fear, we begin to move forward into a life completely energized and rich in the freedom God has for us. AND as we take more steps into freedom, our actions have the power to set others on that same course of freedom as well. Only you can give yourself Permission to Speak Freely!