My voice is my weapon. For a long time it was my identity. It was musical, it was dramatic, it was political, it was big. I was ‘the voice.’ I struggled to engage with people and situations without utilising it. How else could I express myself in worship? How else could I make that person understand the injustice of that situation without making an audible sound? It also stoked the fires of my ever simmering vanity. To have people turn around and whisper – You have a lovely voice – at times was met with modesty, others self-satisfaction. When those comments didn’t roll through, the voice was saddened, put out, it became jealous of the other voices in the area. The voice spewed out even when it was unconscious. Walking, a little melody would slip out, sometimes it would speak to itself making up arguments, debates, speaking in French, German, even on occasion made-up languages. It wasn’t to anyone in particular, it just needed to be kept active, the centre of attention. The voice won many awards, accolades, commendations – a lot of the opportunities I have had have been to due to the voice. Yet, it/I, never knew the beauty, the power of silence.
Music, one teacher had quoted, was the silence between the notes.
In the summer I felt God challenging me. He seemed to be saying – you, whose whole identity revolves around your voice, people recognising it, when you sing you are aware of it, I want you to be silent.
I balked at the idea. Impossible. Me, silent? Impossible.
And yet, here I find myself at University, slowly and surely being silenced. I had no urge to join the worship band, i didn’t pursue any jazz music or show choirs, i just floated, sometimes humming to myself, but the performance factor had been dampened. The only debating I took part in was at dinner, I didn’t sign up to any teams, didn’t put forward any motions. I joined no drama societies, didn’t incarnate and replicate the voice of Elizabethan or Brechtian plays. No-one knew me as the voice. Some people mildly stated with luke-warm praise, your voice is nice. They didn’t know what it had been, what it had achieved – and the best bit was, they didn’t care. I didn’t care.
I had a voice, but I was not a Voice. There was a liberating freedom. Liberation, mind, and Freedom, are not always enjoyable euphoric experiences. Depression, sadness, confusion, mourning, and lamentation characterised and to a degree still do characterise me. I broke into tears when I heard my sister and her small gospel choir singing Now Behold the Lamb. My heart was tearing at its chains and wanted to soar and join in the harmony. To boost the tenor section, compliment the alto’s, and eclipse the sopranos. It wanted to reverberate, i wanted to worship through it, perform, be identified like I used to be. One bar in and those who knew me could pinpoint my voice as acutely as a homing device. But my lips stayed shut as my body was racked with sobs. Frustration and anger ranged the terrain of my mental emotions. Frustration at the fact that I wasn’t seizing the opportunities, anger at those who were. Jealousy reared its head, inevitably. Wherever pride is jealousy is cheering it on.
Yet within this silence, this desperate need for silence, was His grace and patience. Hold out. Wait. Learn how to be free by being silent. Then, when you speak, sing, when you use your voice and are not used by it, the power, the joy, the impact, will be incredible.
I’m still waiting, trying to learn. It hurts. I feel my identity is being crumbled, disintegrated, and I am praying that it will be remade. Yet, within it all, I have realised how much I love my voice, and love the fact that I have the freedom to use it. So now I will wait, and exercise the freedom of being silent that so importantly compliments, and at times is the biggest sound one can make, without speaking, singing, being A voice.