The journey of life has not been an easy one for Myla.
She knew there was something different about her, about her life, but could never understand the sheer impact of all that she had endured until she stepped out on that stage.
"Hello, my name is Myla and I am a survivor."
The crowd roared into claps before they even heard her raspy voice speak the words and read the passages of her book. This was her first tour, her first speaking engagement, her first opportunity to take back her power.
"My story is in some ways not unlike the story of many women, many of you sitting in this room right now. I was born to parents who loved each other and subsequently loved me, their baby girl. I was raised in the praise of their affirmation of my brains and beauty, taught to be tender and caring, to be loving and kind, to believe in the best in all people, and to strive for my dreams. I was taught of my virtue and my worth and to pursue my education. My father loved me, my mother raised me, my brother protected me."
Her audience was filled, standing room only, packed with young and old. They looked at her, politely smiling and nodding as she relayed the idyllic upbringing of her upper middle class life. Her journey to college and her professional life as a scholar and theologian. This seemed like any other convention message until she got to the part about why she was a survivor.
"He knew better than to hit me, no, he knew the law, he knew that the bumps and bruises would show up on my body, my skin color could not hide shades of purple as easily as my soul could hide the taunts and rants and accusations. His attacks were more evil, more psychological, more invasive than if he had simply punched me."
Myla went on to tell of the years, ten in fact, that she had endured under the dominant controlling nature of her former husband. She shared nuggets and examples, she shared moments when she stood in the shower and prayed until she was limp only to walk out to him taunting and telling her, "to get on with that mess," and starting in on one of his hour long assaults against her, calling her names, telling her she was worthless, finding something to accuse her of from not folding the towels the right way to not cooking dinner precisely at 6:40. It didn't matter, he just kept at it, week after week, year after year, until one day she turned on him.
She stood up and put her hand up and told him to stop. Then she turned and walked out of the room.
Perhaps it was the force of the way she said it or the look in her eyes, but his time he did not follow and hover as he did every time she tried to simply walk away from his rants. This time he stood there.
The pin-drop silence fell over the room as the words of her mouth fell like shackles falling from one who had been enslaved and was now free. Her crescendo built to a defining moment when she proclaimed,
"I survived to stand here before you today and say that you are greater than the limitations he placed on you, women, you are greater than his insecurities thrown upon you, women, you are greater than his inadequacies forced upon you, women, you are greater than his accusations women, you are greater than his rants, women, you are greater than his shouts, women, you are greater than his withholding, women, you are grater than his threats, women, you are greater, you are greater, you are greater!"
With those words, she turned and sat down.
The room was silent, then every woman in the room stood up and shouted, "I am greater!" The men were quiet, the weight of the wrongs they had done sat upon their shoulders. All of them were not abusers, no, certainly not all of them. But that room full of pastors, bishops, deacons, and ministers knew that there was anointing and truth behind her words. They knew they sat silently by while woman after woman in their congregations were the victims of abuse - physical, emotional, verbal, emotional, sexual (rape, assault, withholding, and gay men married). They knew they had created an environment that not only condoned the abuse but essentially forced the women to remain in those situations, to be "yoked" and to "submit" to their husbands, to be quiet and not "cause him to reprimand you." They all fell silent.
Myla watched the men, from the oldest to youngest pick up their Bibles and hats, silently stand up, heads down, and walk out of the convention hall. Waiting for them outside was the team of Myla's Brothers - an anointed group of men trained to train clergy to spot abuse and to guide their congregations to a place of wholeness.
She just sat there in her all white layered tunic and linen pants, her white Chuck Taylor's, her long dreams wound up on her head like a crown with a white lily pinned to the side. She held her hand-made Cocobolo wooden pen in her hand, writing, ever still, the next lines of freedom. She breathed deeply and exhaled.
Myla stood up, a very vibrant and young looking fifty-five, regal in her stance, and held out her arms just as the group of clergy reached the door and shouted,
"Brothers, you MUST honor the women that have gifted you with their presence for it is their presence that gives you the gifts you have. HONOR them or you will lose them all."
Her daughters, Miranda and Mikala, twins at thirty, walked out onto the stage and stood beside their mother, one on either side. They looked out at the audience of women who were still standing there, basking in the courage of the woman on the stage.
"Thank you, Ms. Myla!" The chorus of voices grew louder and louder as the women gathered their things and instead of joining their husbands as they normally would, they gathered backstage to meet with the waiting counselors, attorneys, and interviewers ready to help those who needed it make a step in their lives.
Myla turned to her daughters and whispered, "remember, I told you I was going to get my life back and help someone else get their's back also."