The beautiful thing about getting healthy is that you grow in new ways — new behaviors, new boundaries, new words, new friendships. The hard thing about getting healthy is that you grow in all those same ways — new behaviors, new boundaries, new words, new friendships. Learning something new when you have long-established patterns can be a significant challenge. Put another way,
growth is just downright hard.
Worth it, but hard. That’s as true for growing into your new voice as it is for any other kind of change.
I have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic, now five years sober. I recently noticed that he was doing many new things — traveling a good bit and taking some cooking and art classes. I finally asked him why he was so busy and how he could still be working full time yet have so much time to play.
He said, “Sandi, you have to understand that I spent so much time drunk, I had to figure out what to do with all this extra time. I’ve had to learn how to live differently. Now that I’m sober, I have so much time that I didn’t used to have, so my sponsors from Alcoholics Anonymous encouraged me to learn new things.”
I believe that those of us who are growing from voicelessness into the full expression of who we are created to be in Christ Jesus would do well to follow my friend’s example.
Let’s invest ourselves in learning new skills to live differently so that our voices become richer and fuller expressions of who we are in Jesus.
We must set ourselves up for success. We can make a plan and work our plan to develop and strengthen our voices.
Mom’s Practice Sessions
One day, not too long ago, Mom stunned me with some new information about herself as a young mom. Her story has revolutionized my perspective on how to grow and develop one’s voice.
My mom shared that, in her family of origin, she knew that she was loved, but she never really heard the words. Her parents simply were not verbally expressive of their love with one another or with her. Consequently, before her marriage to my dad, she never learned how to say the words “I love you.” They simply weren’t a part of her vocabulary. When she and my dad got married, my dad was very free to say “I love you.” Slowly, my mom learned how to say “I love you” back to him. But when my two younger brothers and I were born, Mom worried that she wouldn’t know how to naturally say “I love you” to us.
So Mom, determined to become comfortable and natural in expressing her love verbally, would wait at night until we three were sound asleep. Then she would sneak into our bedrooms and stand over us in the dark and practice saying those important words.
“I love you, Sandi.”
“I love you, Mike.”
“I love you, Craig.”
She practiced saying the words so that when the time came, she would feel comfortable saying them to us. Isn’t that a beautiful picture of a young mother eager to grow into using her voice to be the kind of mother she wanted to be?
One reason Mom’s story shocked me so much is that, if you knew my mom now, you would never ever know that she once had trouble saying “I love you.” She says those words freely to everyone today. Mom is famous among our friends and family for saying those words — for speaking words of love to others. She even takes your face in her hands and makes sure you are looking at her. She looks right in your eyes and says, “You know I love you, right? I love you today.”
She started adding today several years ago when my youngest brother, Craig, was in a serious car crash. He sustained a head injury and was in a coma for many weeks. There were days we prepared our hearts for his move to Heaven. And so, not knowing how much longer we would have him on this earth, and not knowing whether we would have him tomorrow, she added the word today.
“Craig, I love you today!” And so now that has become a family story and a constant saying for all of us. We love you today!
The Mechanics of Voice Lessons
I’d like to follow my mom’s example and practice using my voice as a spiritual-growth tool. I’d like to practice using my voice according to the will of God. This makes me think of taking voice lessons.
The object of voice lessons is to maximize the proper use of your vocal cords for the greatest possible range, quality, and control of the sounds you produce. You do so by practicing certain vocal phrases, starting with vibrations low and slow, then stretching and strengthening the cords by going from low, to higher, back to low, then higher still, and so on, continually stretching to higher levels with greater and greater control and quality over time. You also must learn to breathe correctly, for breathing is the anchor of a strong, healthy voice.
I was reading Philippians 4:4-9 recently, and it sparked an illustration of how we can grow and practice our spiritual voices. Here is the rich instruction that Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
The vocal performer in me sees a formula there for training our spiritual voices. Mind you, I realize this is a rather unconventional application of these verses, but stay with me and see if it rings as true for you as it does for me.
Start with the basic of rejoicing and practice that. This is the “low and slow” equivalent to voice lessons. Next, begin stretching your spiritual voice by making requests of God, with thanksgiving. This takes us to the next higher level and grounds us in peace. Then stretch to the next level by meditating on and saying whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Finally, practice, practice, practice.
What if you and I practiced using our voices in these ways? Imagine how beautiful and strong our voices could become.
Excerpted with permission from The Voice by Sandi Patti, copyright Sandi Patti.
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How are you using your voice? Growth is hard, but in Jesus we can learn new patterns. We can stretch to speak words that encourage, comfort, uplift, bring hope, and praise God for His goodness. Let’s practice, practice, practice! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full