Let God help you find your voice

By Vinal Van Benthem | March 26, 2015

I suppose we should have seen it coming. A star athlete in high school, Tess quit the team when it became evident that the school was more focused on winning than on encouraging students to enjoy the sport. Her coach was not happy, but Tess was more interested in the integrity of the sport than in how much money it could make for the school. And so the die was cast.

Graduating at the top of her class, Tess went on to college, choosing a school where social concern and a concentration on the values of citizenship were integral to its mission. Tess blossomed and, again, graduated at the top of her class. Her family was delighted. They looked forward to their daughter embarking on a career that would bring her both financial success and personal satisfaction. And for the next year or two, Tess did her best to fulfill their expectations. She took a job that required passing exacting exams — and she passed them with flying colors. But something was missing. Her training and education had prepared Tess for service. She felt isolated and alone in her tiny cubicle, trapped by a system focused on financial success while, in her heart, she felt certain she was being called to more.

And so, Tess moved on again, eventually taking a job defending the rights of workers and minorities who had no one else to speak for them. Here, too, Tess rose quickly to the top in her field. But this time it was different. Now the girl who had previously been the star money-maker and recipient of much praise found herself despised and rejected — often by the very same people who had previously supported her! Tess had become the antithesis of what much of the consumerist society around her believed in and it wasn’t winning her any popularity contests.

God had given Tess a “well-trained tongue” that she might “speak to the weary,” but as often happens to those who follow this path, Tess, too, now found herself “buffeted and spit upon.” Tess had found her voice. I suppose we should have seen it coming.

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.

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