Losing One’s Voice

September 15, 2014

One of the interesting, and somewhat disappointing, developments of this summer has been trouble with my breathing apparatus. My lungs check out very well, indeed, but the upper airways (trachea and bronchi) are stiffening. This causes me to wheeze under certain conditions, and if you really listen, you can hear a slight whistle coming from just below my voice box. My radiology oncologist suggests the possibility that last Fall’s radiation treatments are now causing some scarring in those tubes. The matter is being investigated by my medical team, and I’m hoping there might be some sort of definitive treatment to correct the problem. We’ll see!

Miraculously, I am able to sing, and in fact have joined a choir. A week ago Saturday we experienced our first all-day “retreat” with this group, which entailed a lot of vocalizing (most of the day). By the end, I was afraid my voice was going to go completely. As a voice major, I know the best remedy for laryngitis is vocal rest and hydration, so I did the drill and averted disaster. The experience, however, gave me a handle on what has been going on with me in the writing department.

In late Spring, as I was coming out of the cancer tunnel and as the PC(USA) General Assembly was looming, I began to lose my writing (blogging) voice. It takes awhile to find one’s voice, that unique point of view, writing style, even that soul of a writer expressed in words. It was a new experience for me, having nothing to say! [Take her to the hospital! Mary has run out of things to comment upon!]

So, a little history: In the last year, I have picked up some new readers drawn to my experience of lung cancer. Many of you may not know that I had a “previous life” as a Presbyterian activist. As a minister member of San Francisco Presbytery and a national leader among evangelical/orthodox Presbyterians, I reflected on the politics, theology, discipline, and governance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). My perspective was, and remains, theologically conservative, biblically anchored, and challenging to the emerging trends in my particular tribe of mainline Protestantism.

The year my tribe was ramping into the season known as “General Assembly,” held in Detroit in June 2014, I was out for the count. Undergoing rigorous treatment for lung cancer, having surgery to remove a lobe of my lung, and recovering in my recliner, my interest in denominational issues slackened under the constant effort just to stay awake. It’s amazing how an experience like this puts life in slow motion, reorganizes priorities, and takes the urgency out of some events.

During this time, however, I found my voice in reference to lung cancer and the spiritual life, and Bringing the Word to Life meant bringing the Scriptures to bear on prolonged illness, the possibility of dying, and the miracle of cure. The medications I took had one quirky side effect I wish I could have back: I was wide awake from 3 to 8 a.m. every morning, providing the perfect quiet and reflective mood for writing. But now that these drugs are completely out of my system, I am slogging away like everybody else, trying to find the time and the quiet to gather my thoughts. I can assure you, the joy of living is a daily gift now, and small pleasures are intensified. My batteries—physical and spiritual—are almost fully recharged at this point, and I’m ready to roll in the writing department.

So now the question is, should I go back to writing about denominational issues? All summer, I have felt the Lord urging me to silence on the PC(USA) topic, literally restrained from writing about the GA decisions of greatest concern to me. I watched the plenary sessions of GA on live streaming, took copious notes, stayed in touch with my colleagues on site. But when the decisions came down, it was as though I had lost my voice. I felt like I had given reasonable warning for years, as a prophet in the wilderness trying to wake people up to the disaster ahead. My warnings went unheeded; my logic was unconvincing; something “newer” and “better” was adopted. My point of view is now considered irrelevant, if not dangerous, to the thought police who are redefining “tolerance” even as they are redefining “marriage.”

My silence has not been due to fear. I am not afraid of what people think of me or my ideas. I don’t have anything to lose professionally. If there’s one thing I have learned in the last year, there is nothing to be afraid of when one is carried by the Savior.

My silence is not an indication I have given up. I do not plan to roll over and play dead while the assault upon a biblically faithful and historically orthodox theology continues.

My silence itself is not acknowledgment that I have lost a contest. I believe a contest has been decided, with erroneous teaching and an abandonment of the rules, but “losing” is not what has rendered me silent.

It is “the fear of the Lord” and his holiness and righteousness that has me standing in awe-full silence, for now. I don’t expect it to be permanent, but I do expect with vocal rest and hydration (drinking the Living Water), it won’t be long before the Lord will give me permission to bring his Word to life, be it in the PC(USA) or in other aspects of life yet to unfold.

Tomorrow, some thoughts from the Major Prophets.

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7 Responses to “Losing One’s Voice”

  1. emd5542 Says:

    Your blog today, Mary, reminds me of the opine that during the 400 years between Malachi and John the Baptist, it was thought God was silent. I’ll accept as true in the sense that God spoke through prophets. I once thought that with Jesus prophets were no longer needed. Not so! Certainly not today. In God’s perfect timing your voice will be heard. As with politics so with church: it’s mostly all about money so inclusion is essential. Sing on! Preach on! We may be in wilderness times!

  2. Debbie Berkley Says:

    So, you’ve got to go in the direction that Aslan is showing you, even if everyone else thinks you should go a different direction.

  3. Martha Leatherman Says:

    Mary, your blog spoke to me today. Our church and presbytery have begun addressing PCUSA issues, and many have come to me asking if I will attend the meetings, what my response will be, whether I will organize something, and—-I have nothing to offer but silence. I have no words, no plan, and no sense of urgency to develop anything. God has paralyzed me in a very good way at this point. I spend time in prayer for others and in the Word, but He is not ready for me to do anything now.

  4. acharrell2014 Says:

    Bless you, Mary. Glad you are writing again. This Friday I will see my oncologist for the first time since ending chemo. I am hoping she will recommend both physical and respiratory therapy. My enforced idleness has robbed me of stamina, and although God has blessed me by restoring my singing voice, I still need better air reserves. Thank you for your prayers and your outlook on life.

  5. Thomas Fultz, Ruling Elder Says:

    Your voice speaks from your faith-filled walk with Jesus, and it encourages many folks as you share God’s work in your life. I urge you to reflect on Col 1:3-7 and remain confident that God has a work for you …and equipping other Presbyterian flavored disciples of Jesus is a high calling in these days!

  6. Jodie Says:

    Welcome back Mary,

    I think you are at your best when you are focusing on planting the passion for the Word of God – the roots of our Faith.

    It is, after all, the name that was given to you for your blog.

    Without that passion, no matter what else we do, we perish. A tree without roots withers and dies. If I would have a common criticism of both the liberals and the conservatives, it is that both of them, in their own way, in their zeal for their causes, have walked away from their roots.

  7. Pat Williams Says:

    So good to have you back writing, Mary! Looking forward to reading what you have to say about the Major Prophets! I’m so sorry WBS this year is doing Joshua, etc., rather than the Prophets, in these days! Pat williams

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