One night last March, I lay in bed wide awake staring at the ceiling. After tossing, turning and I don't know how many pillow fluffs, I gave in and turned to Tumblr. As I was scrolling for what seemed like days, I stumbled upon a Bible verse. You see, this time last year my biggest struggle was speaking up- heck, sometimes I still struggle with this. At the time I decided to make this verse my lock screen. I would pull out my phone a thousand times a day and each time I would read Acts 18:9. I still have this verse as my lock screen. I find that it gives me the nudge I need to speak up. Over the summer I noticed that when I felt nervous I would reach for my phone and read this verse or repeat it in my mind until I felt confident enough to say what I was thinking. I had a tendency to struggle the most with silence when it came to certain friends. I would allow them to make snide comments about others or a specific topic. While I disagreed and would never say those things, I was just as wrong as the person who voiced them.
God tells us in this verse to not be "afraid". Spending time worrying and fearing how someone will respond is pointless. Their opinion doesn't matter- only God's does. Yes, this is easier said than done, but having this verse on my lock screen encouraged me and helped me retrain my mind to reflect God. It is one thing to identify as a Christian, yet another to reflect the ways of Christ. We can not pick and choose which parts of the Bible and God's word we want to follow. "Speaking" up is just as important as not harming someone.
Acts 18:9 is instructing us to not only trust God to give us strength and ease our fears, but it is saying that our voices are powerful. We should not be "silent". God wants us to stand beside those who need help. He wants us to tell our friends when they are wrong. He wants us to fight social injustice and show others His love.
Now that you know what acts (pun not intended) as fuel for me, I want to share one of the reasons why I am passionate about serving.
I was changed through a piece of literature when I discovered “Night” by Elie Wiesel. The book details a Jewish young man’s journey growing up in concentration camps during World War II. Night has dramatically shaped my life and thought process. While studying this, I was discussing history surrounded by Christian teachers and students, in a Christian school. We were able to speak freely about God and have detailed discussions about Elie’s open struggles with faith. The second time I read Night, was my sophomore year in high school. We were not permitted to talk about Elie’s faith. The discussions were rather surface level and my classmates made a joke of the book. I did not understand how people could take such a serious and heartbreaking event and mock it. However, it allowed me to find a deeper understanding and appreciation for this book.
I fell in love with this piece of literature more when I was defending it from my classmates. Having to explain over and over again why this book is impactful, allowed me to truly see how blessed I am. Night opened my eyes to oppression, tragedy, loss of faith, humility and humanity. Night is not only a story of great sadness, it is a story about community and how a man can endure the worst possible things, yet still have faith in God. It is a story about redemption, loss of innocence and forgiveness. Elie writes how eight simple words changed how he saw the world- “men to the right. Women to the left”. Eight words that were the final goodbye for Elie, his mother and younger sister. Eight words that brought him out of denial and allowed him to see what the concentration camp was.
As difficult as Night was to read, it was more difficult for me to understand how society could allow for this nightmare to happen. The second time reading it affirmed my beliefs. I decided from that moment on never to turn away from someone in need. I vowed to myself that I would be the voice for those who were unable to speak. Night shows us that our words hold more power than we think. Our words can dictate war or peace. Our words can heal or kill. It is our choice how to use them. It is our choice to speak up when those who have spoken wrongfully or negatively, begin to impact the world. It is our duty as human beings to protect those who cannot protect themselves. It is our job as citizens to unite together and prevent injustice. It was painful to read a young boy’s confused thoughts- how he would daydream of being rescued, how he wished someone would have stood up for the Jews instead of watching the Germans take them to the trains.
Elie Wiesel has done more than scribble words on pieces of paper. He created vulnerability and showcased the difficult truths. As people, it can be overwhelming to hear. Sometimes we can be opposed or in denial of what the other is saying to us. Night helped me to see that my voice truly matters. It only takes one person to make a difference and create a change. It takes one voice to terminate wrongdoing. The truth doesn’t care what you look like. Victims do not care if you are the wealthiest person alive, so long as you do the right thing and fight for humanity. It was silence that allowed the Germans to build concentration camps and torture innocent people. It was silence that killed millions. It was silence that enabled Hitler to take over Europe. It was silence that allowed people to look the other way and minimize humanity.
Each morning, I wake up to see Night on my bookcase. There it is, eyelevel. The book simply standing on my shelf reminds me that each day I have the power to help someone. I have the power and responsibility to prevent more pain.
This Week's Challenge: Do Not Be Silent
When you're grabbing your morning coffee, filling up the cart with groceries, out to lunch with a friend or going to class, remember that your voice matters. Challenge someone's opinion and fight the negativity. Remaining silent will only motivate others to continue on this destructive path. Be the one who is brave enough to speak up and say that this is not right. Use your voice to be the change our world so desperately needs. If it helps you to feel confident, make your lock screen a favorite quote, memory, song lyric or Bible verse!
Take the extra step and share your "why". Why are you passionate about the thing you are working on? What made you want to get involved? Pick a friend, family member or share online using #OperationBeautifulNation . I would love to hear about your journey.