Originally published Tuesday, 22 July 2014.
I recently spoke on a panel about writing at the TGC Women's Conference in Orlando. The only problem: they didn't have any mics available for us. When it was my turn to speak, I had to apologize to the audience because I am so soft spoken. Unfortunately, I'm sure there were many who couldn't hear me. (A friend later compared my voice to that of Michelle Duggar).
Not only is my physical voice soft and quiet, but in many ways my writing voice is as well. For those unfamiliar with the concept of voice, a writer's voice is their unique individual style of writing. It includes their use of words, preferred sentence structure, formality/informality, the overall feel and style of their writing, etc. It is as unique to them as an individual's personality.
People have described my writing voice as "winsome" and "gentle." Occasionally when I hear that, I wince. It reminds me of what one of my former teenage client's once said to me. I used to work in a special school for children who couldn't be in a regular school environment. In comparing me to the other counselor's on staff, my client said, "You're the nice counselor." And it's true. I was nice. The student's lives were filled with abuse, danger, poverty, and so much uncertainty. I felt my role was to love and nurture them.
Sometimes I struggle with this assessment of my voice. I've told my husband that I need to hire someone who can teach me how to project my physical voice when speaking so that it is more audible. I used to think that when it comes to writing, the playing field would be leveled a bit. While you can't hear me speak in a crowd, perhaps my voice would be audible in my writing. But, as it turns out, I am gentle in my writing voice as well. There are times though, when I wish I wasn't that way. Sometimes I want to stand up and speak my mind and say "This is the truth. Listen to me!" I want to sound strong and certain and make my voice heard.
But a writing friend recently told me that while some people learn best from a loud and strong voice, others need a quiet, gentle voice. She said that my voice reaches those who need a kind, friendly voice that can encourage them in their pain and sorrow. I have been thinking about what she said ever since.
It made me think of the voices in Scripture. Four different people painted a picture of Jesus' life: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They told the same story, but each portrait looks different and sounds different. Each one wrote their gospel to a different audience and each one wrote in a different voice. Mark's story was fast paced and to the point. I am often drawn to John's voice which is rich in metaphor. Matthew wrote to the Jews and painted a portrait of Christ as the long promised Messiah they grew up studying in the law and prophets. Luke was a doctor, well educated, and wrote his story to provide an orderly account of Jesus' ministry.
Perhaps God gives each of us a unique voice that speaks to a particular person or audience. He knows just what someone needs to hear and the best way to deliver it. I think of the way Jesus spoke to people in Scripture. Some he debated with logically. Others he spoke with in warm, gentle tones. Still others he gave just the facts. He pushed when necessary, guided in love, questioned when needed. Sometimes he healed right away, other times he waited and addressed their hearts first.
I may never learn how to speak louder than I do. My writing voice may be fixed as well. I don't know. But I do know that God has called each one of us to spread his glory and gospel to the world. First in our homes, then in our communities, and as far beyond that as we are able. Whatever our voice, loud or quiet, gentle or strong, academic or practical, God will use us to reach the heart's of his children. He is not limited by our abilities or lack thereof. And we can't compare the voice he's given us to that of others. For he made each of us for a purpose and he will fulfill his purposes in us.
He gives each of us a voice; we simply need to speak.