How can I sing a new song when I don’t have a voice?
Within our Lutheran communities there are people who find it hard to speak, let alone sing. For some the restriction is temporary, while for others it is ongoing. As I share some of my story, I think of each of you who feel silenced.
In response to the question that Bishop Mark has invited us to consider: ‘How do we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ I ask, “Do I even have a voice? And if I do, how do I know that I can use it?”
I adore working and volunteering in not just the LCAQD context, but also in the LCA Churchwide context, and have had the privilege of doing so for more than a decade. I feel such a sense of calling and purpose working in the mission and governance space for our church communities.
As I turn up and share my voice, I often feel heard and valued, safe and welcomed.
Knowing that the LCAQD can be a place of safety and belonging, where my voice is welcome in the collective song, it can hurt deeply when I find myself silenced. For example, when someone asks: “Which one of you girls is going to take the minutes this meeting?” and the others in the room look away, abashed, it seems like the LCAQD is saying: ‘Female humans can only contribute to meetings by taking notes of what others say.’
During time like this, I feel my song becoming more strained, my voice less valued and my wisdom less respected as an important ingredient in the blend of the wisdom of the whole group. Previously confident to weave my song amongst the other voices I become afraid to open my mouth. I ask myself: ‘Why would God be silencing my voice and my song now?’
Our Lutheran confessions remind us to seek forgiveness “for what we have done, and for what we have failed to do.” So I think to myself: ”This is what must have happened. There must be something in error with my song. I need to work harder at my song. It must just be me. I must be singing the wrong song, or singing the wrong parts of the song, or perhaps singing it too loudly. Maybe everyone else is just not ready for my song. Perhaps I could just modify it, make it more palatable, adjust the tone, or…”
But this only leads to a space where I can no longer sing, or even to speak. I merely breathe: “Yah… weh… Yah… weh…”
Once, when I was in this foreign, terrifying mental and physical landscape, God heard my barely audible yearning. His love enveloped me, amplified and strengthened my voice until I was able to sing out a weedy call for help, which a beloved friend heard. She sang a song to me of Christ’s eternal love and acceptance which helped to duct tape over the cracks of doubt and derision in my heart. She reminded me that God loves my voice and my own unique song, no matter what the world says. She reminded me that when we sing together, with all of our differences, Christ’s song is all the richer. From that moment, I was able to sing on my own again – God wanted and needed my unique song.
As humans, our temptation is often to build a hierarchy to control or direct, to only allow some persons with the right knowledge to inform decisions, because this way we think we can avoid messiness or conflict of opinion. I believe that when we make the bold leap to trust in the wisdom borne of God’s varied and complex Creation, through showing honour and respect for the dignity of all persons and their place in Christ’s beautiful, complex song, there we will be a step closer to achieving the vibrant, passionate church of the future, a church with a place for all, boldly proclaiming its ancient, new song.