If you spend five minutes with me, you’ll know that I have the loudest voice in America. I don’t know how to whisper. And in all realms of my life – at home, work, church, school, among friends – I have often been told that my voice is too loud – not feminine, too noticeable, too attention-seeking.
My freshmen year of college, I decided that I wanted to look more like the “Malu Christian girl ideal,” especially because I was being compared to a lovely woman who had a very different personality and calling in her own life.
Our comparisons were never-ending. I was brash, too independent, loud, too quick to speak, and countless other things, while this woman was the ideal wife, “good girl,” quiet, and much more respectful than I would ever be. I actively tried to silence myself that year, take the tone of my voice down, not speak too quickly – because all I wanted was the validation that I could possibly fit into this construct. I also got a lot of pressure because I did not fit into this mold. I was often told that it blocked me from being good enough to marry a man in my community. To be honest, I still get told that, a lot.
It felt awful – I was trying to be someone I wasn’t while feeling that as “this person” I would never be able to find a partner… which, often times in my world, is the only way to be taken seriously.
But it just didn’t work. It would never work – you can’t take brash, loud, outspoken Rachel Varkey and make her into timid, quiet, soft spoken Rachel Varkey.
We aren’t meant to be the same.
God made us uniquely different to serve His people in His very diverse and unique world. Rachel was meant to serve a different type of community, while this lovely woman was meant to serve another. Both of us share in the image and identity of God – and as I get older, I realize ALL of us reflect a sliver of the many layers of God’s incredible, multi-faceted, multi-dimensional personality. When God created humans, He said: “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” God created “human beings,” both “male and female” in “his own image.” (Gen 1:26-27).
That means, for some very odd reason, God has chosen to reflect a facet of his identity in brash, loud, outspoken Rachel. By doing so, He has chosen for this same woman to serve a community who will be receptive to that identity. In fact, that woman will help bring other people to see one of many dimensions of who God is.
I remember all of my life struggling with writing. In 8th grade, my US history teacher (shout out to Mr. Young, the real MVP here) had to coach me through six different essays until I finally learned how to write a good one. I went to college and have been made fun of more than once for my writing in group projects. In the midst of my insecurities, I have been writing about the same issues of vulnerability, guilt, love, and shame since I was 13 years old. I have journals upon journals of things I’ve written about these topics. I wrote in my UChicago admissions essay (I got waitlisted if anyone was wondering…) that I was going to be a writer and talk about what it meant to be a woman. I truly believe that God gifts us with spiritual gifts to honor the dreams He plants into our hearts. And He teaches us how to exercise those gifts bravely and appropriately – you just have to believe He can do it.
So, here is my current identity (which is subject to change as I continue to grow into who I am called to be): I am a bubbly, ridiculous, outspoken, kind, and loving woman who has chosen to believe that God can use me. I will always find my identity in love in the form of Jesus, and believe my life on earth is to live abundantly and without fear. I’m a Malayalee American, which could be good or bad depending on what day you ask me. Most days, it’s the heart of my parents – it comes with a deep appreciation and understanding of sacrifice. I love my parents more than you will ever know – they are my heartbeat and whether they know it or not, I will spend the rest of my life hoping to be the best daughter I can be (in my context). Third, I’m a woman – which comes with serious #praise and gratitude to countless women before me who have fought tirelessly to raise our ceiling and in many ways have made it possible for me to be able to do this – be myself and try to encourage other women to live into their best selves. I’m an oldest – which means I’m super bossy and annoying (ask my sister), a best friend, friend, and sister to many – which I like to believe I’m pretty good at (again, you might want to ask around), and right now – I’m a singular unit who will cross paths with someone who wants to live an incredibly big life with me where I can develop into more roles in life. I have a big heart with even bigger dreams, and I truly believe every person is capable of living into their most unique and authentic selves.