All These Silent Years (What My Mom Taught Me about Voice)

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Sit with me. Just one moment.”

 
I sit, wondering what we’re looking at.
 
Her hand covers mine and I recall my old selfish attempts to deny her—denials of home. Now we’ve come here to watch all these silent years pass between us and she’s exactly how I imagined my mom would be at this age.

 a path through tall trees“Sit,” she says. But she really means look.
 

 Look with me. See what’s here. See, so you can write it.
 
 Because of course she’s always believed in me even when I didn’t. Time’s finally stilled to this single bench in a boundless garden. And in this theater of ochre leaves suspended in the fading light, the first scene glimmers:

 
…my first day of preschool, waiting for her to appear and take me home to safety…. 
 
…the swings at the park and lying about lying just to trick her…
 
…hiding behind a pile of homework, a fight with a bully unmentioned…. 
 
…my icy snubbing at the airport before London…
 
…her sneaking a writing sample to an editor friend landing my first real job…


More scenes pass, but my sins of omission figure prominently in many. All my silence for her sacrifices, these moments lined up like medals for her endurance in a battle for connection. I’ve withheld her prize for years and only one who’d already endured all this could still want to love me.

 
How could I have missed this for so long, the awesome power my mother holds?
 
My silence is before and after all, how can I not dedicate to rescuing these, the countless such moments our relationship rests upon? How can I fear speaking when so many moments wait to speak of all they hold?
 
My silence has lied. Just who do I think I am?
 
Eventually, maybe we do all realize all we’ve been given.

I feel her hand covering mine and how always this love for me has been between us and how much I want to know all she’s given.
 
Why did she always love me so readily? The struggle of wanting to escape my own timid skin has defined not just what’s between us but both of us as well. I’ve carried this curse, and this was possibly her finest lesson to me, in her compassion she willingly traded her life to enable mine.
 
So at last I will say this. I will write it. And I will speak.
 
I choose to deny a life of waiting for someone to understand me, to become just one more old voiceless casualty.
 
I reject my right to an answer to why I was so easily silenced, sacrificing myself to appease.
 
I forfeit the cripple in my soul.

A truer voice is speaking—“Pick up your pallet and walk.”
 
I take her hand. I will. I'll let this go and take her way, the way forward from this day. She’s asked me to believe only that I might finally hear what I’m now only beginning to recognize—the deep groaning in me, a sound too holy to be uttered. It's that voice, a spirit who has helped in all my weakness. When I can’t speak or don’t know what to say, he’s spoken for me, “making prayer out of my wordless sighs, my aching groans” (Romans 8:26-27, MSG). 
 
For as long as I can remember I've wanted to speak as myself. My true self, without self-consciousness or fear. Without restraint. Without being shut down, dominated or silenced. (How many in this world have felt that? Is there anyone who hasn’t?)
 
I reject the curse of working to make myself known. I will never write all these silent years, this pity I always thought was my entitlement. I’ve got only one life and it’s bound to countless others.
 
To sit and listen for the One voice in this moment summons mine and I feel it leaping up in me to speak. (Peace, impatient heart. All will be well!)
 
I may never get an answer. But in this moment, I have something to say. And what could being known ever really matter to anyone?
 
Tozer says we come and expect to be able to control the voice we hear speaking, try to make it say what we’d like to hear. He knows this is what we do. (In The Pursuit of God, see "The Speaking Voice")
 
Is this why expressing our voice is so hard, we think we control it, that it’s ours to bring out and make it sound like we want? A writing voice is a choice. Those who find theirs have merely chosen not to focus on themselves. 
 
Show me the one who speaks like himself and I’ll show you someone who’s stopped trying to.
 
What I know is that in listening for a higher voice, attending His wishes, I'm incapable of being conscious of myself.
 
My mom isn’t leaving. I’ve plucked this scene from a (hopefully) far-distant future to remind myself. To remember before it happens. I’m simply choosing to embrace my inheritance now. This gift descended from heaven, my choice to seek one voice.
 

["Know thyself."] And is this the prime
And heaven-sprung adage of the olden time?
Say, canst thou make thyself? Learn first that trade;
Haply thou mayst know what thyself had made.
What hast thou, Man, that thou dar'st call thine own?
What is there in thee, Man, that can be known?
Dark fluxion, all unfixable by thought,
A phantom dim of past and future wrought,
Vain sister of the worm–life, death, soul, clod–
Ignore thyself, and strive to know thy God!
 
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Self-Knowledge,” 1832.
 
 
What you’ve got to speak is infinitely more important than how.
Praying you speak the truth this week.
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