Don’t Lose Your Voice
I know that I am a polarizing figure. Sometimes I wonder why God wired me the way that he did. When you have heart that’s passionate, a mind that never stops, and a big mouth to go with it, it is a deadly combination. Such is what I have to deal with every day. Trust me, there are days I wish I could hit the mute button. I’ve heard there’s wisdom in talking less and listening more, and I admire those who hold such a posture in life. Yet, no matter how valiant my efforts at remaining silent, I remain a failure.
Alongside that is my other curse: I REALLY love people, and genuinely want to please them! I like affirmation, but more importantly I like knowing that what I am saying/doing is helpful to someone who needs it. As you can see, I am my own worst enemy. It is often hard for me to reconcile all these dynamics, and there is a constant temptation to just shut up. I mean, who’s actually listening in the first place? What good am I actually doing? I’m not actually saying anything that hasn’t been said before, or that someone else can’t say better, am I?
When I started classes at GWU, one of the instructors soon became my mentor: Dr. George. In many ways, Dr. George saved something in me that I was on the verge of losing: my voice. For anyone who has ever spent time under his tutelage, you know that one of his greatest convictions is that everyone has a voice, and every voice is valuable. His example has been invaluable to me in my scholarship, ministry, and activism.
Recently, I have been working on some research concerning the genre of “lament” in the Bible and its connection to Gospel narratives that carry a liturgical tone (I know, booooring.) One of those narratives, however, is the crucifixion scene in Mark’s gospel. (It was Dr. George’s teaching on this passage that actually started my wheels to turn, leading me to do the research I am doing.) In Mark’s account, as Jesus hangs on the cross, darkness covers the whole earth for three hours (Mk 15:33). Moreover, in Mark’s story world, not a word is spoken in that time. It happens at high noon, when the sun should the closest to the earth shining its brightest, where Jesus hangs, not even a droplet of light reaches the earth’s atmosphere. It is, perhaps, the grimmest scene of Jesus’ time on the cross.
The silence of death’s darkness is broken in 15:34. Jesus cries out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” From the darkness of death and hell, Jesus raised his voice. Buechner explains the depth of this cry:
‘My God, my God, why have you –’ and then the Aramaic verb from an Arabic root meaning to run out on, leave in the lurch, to be the Hell and gone. My God, my God, where the Hell are you, meaning If thou art our Father who art in Heaven, be thou also our Father who art in Hell because Hell is where the action is, where I am and the cross is. It is where the pitiless storm is. It is where men labor and are heavy laden under the burden of their own lives without you.” [Telling the Truth, p.38-39].
Even in Jesus’ darkest time, where thick darkness suffocated his world, and the hell of death encompassed his being, God never took Jesus’ voice. Even though that voice was used to question God, it was sacred, and Jesus spoke freely.
So don’t let anyone or anything take your voice! You have something to say! You have something to teach all of us: a story to tell, a sermon to preach, a blog to write, a protest to organize, a complaint to register, a perspective to provide, a testimony to give. Don’t stop, no matter how dark, or lonely, or deadly it gets, keep talking, keep writing, keep protesting, just keep saying what your heart can’t stop producing. If your voice inspires one person, to the ire of hundreds more, it is worth it. Don’t lose your voice.