Moses, however, said to the Lord, “If you please, my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him: Who gives one person speech? Who makes another mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? – Exodus 4:10-11 (NABRE)
So here I am, now fitted with a voice prosthesis, awaiting my first real speech therapy on Monday. And if I may be frank, it’s not something I am looking forward to. It’s not the work itself that I fear, although it’s going to be a tough road. The troubling thing is that now I have a new set of expectations to live up to, and I fear disappointing myself and others who see this as a solution.
People who have had laryngectomies (removal of the voice box) can usually recover fairly intelligible speech. But having had a glossectomy as well (removal of the tongue) my chances for doing that are much slimmer. Still, I have speech pathologists who are convinced that I can succeed in a significant way. We shall see.
The more meaningful issue for me is how this fits into God’s plan for me. I have maintained all along that this was part of His plan, but so far I have yet to see how this may be so. Charlotte and I were doing our morning readings and this verse came up. A sharp jab in the side told me she wanted me to pay attention. Does God make people mute? This is a subset of the larger question as to why He permits suffering in the first place, a question too large to be addressed here. In any case, I am and may be for some time. And I confess that there is a significant part of me that would happily settle for the status quo. Laziness or fear? I don’t know. Can one be too accepting of one’s station? Again, I don’t know.
We are all faced with opportunities for growth and we are not always eager. Growth can involve a significant amount of pain. New wineskins have to do a lot of stretching and that can’t feel good. But pain is greatly affected by our understanding of its purpose. If someone jabs a needle into my arm for no good reason, the pain is an insult, a needless moment of suffering. But if a doctor must do so to heal me, then it becomes something I can accept with grace. So is my present suffering meaningful? Is this new challenge part of the plan? I hope so. In any case I will assume so because the Spirit of God has given me the grace to endure.
Being a Christian is not something one does in isolation. If I am not connected to the Body of Christ, I will wither and die. Fortunately for me, I am surrounded by a cloud of friends so loving that I can scarcely believe it. The biggest challenge I face in that regard is finding new ways to communicate. Our Marriage Encounter sharing group was held at our house last Saturday, and since we were the hosting couple I could prepare my dialog in advance and play it using my text-to-speech app. And I had a pretty good conversation with one of the couples during our after-meeting social time by writing on my Boogie Board while they read. Not ideal, but more real-time than anything else I can do at present.
I recently spent time listening to recordings of some talks I gave before 2009 (filed under the “Resources” menu), and I came away with two unexpected realizations. One is I talk too fast and say “ya know” constantly. If I were listening to someone else doing that I would probably have gotten up and screamed “Yes, we know!”
The other was that I am grateful that I could speak so easily, off the cuff. Yet I don’t regret the loss of that today. I thought listening to these would sadden me but it had the opposite effect. There’s a line in the Big Book, familiar to many of you, that says “We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.” That clearly means that we are at peace with those shameful things in our past that we need not do today. But it can also mean that we are at peace with those wonderful things in our past that we can no longer do today.
A year from now, I may be able to record a greeting to all of you which you may even be able to understand. But that will not be the measure of my success. Voice or no voice, I am loved. And I do not need to speak to love you in return. I am grateful beyond words for all the tender-hearted people God has put in my life, and that is the only measure of success that matters to me today.