One month ago I made a commitment that I wouldn’t raise my voice for one year, and my children are the people it is most difficult to honor this with.
Tender little ones, entrusted to my care are who push my buttons to breaking, they are the ones who see my harshest realities. And it’s not just me, as others have joined this project in our private group, I hear that it is mainly because they want to break the cycle so their children will remember a different type of parenting.
My one caveat when I posted this commitment publicly on this blog, was that in matters of safety I could raise my voice to safeguard my children without having to start the year over… However, I have become very aware that these times are few and far between, and my tone needs to be calm even if I must elevate the volume to find them on a crowded playground or keep them from stepping in front of a moving car.
When in our home I walk room to room to give instructions or call children for dinner so that I do not have to raise my voice in the house. This has dramatically shifted the energy and tone of everyone in our home.
However, this weekend I realized something that is changing my world. We have spent the past few weekends at sporting events, and I can not always walk to where my child is on a cross-country course or be heard over ocean waves and cheering crowds. In those times I have spoken more loudly, but made sure to infuse my tone with love. This is what I have learned…
The gift of volume in our voice is meant to close the distance, but most often we use it to create distance.
Our vocal chords, like all the rest of these fantastic bodies of ours are finely tuned instruments that can convey meaning and be raised in joyous laughter and rich melody. We can convey sarcasm, we can impart meaning. We can whisper, we can yell.
When a child is walking back from a race well run, trying to find my face amidst the crowd, I raise my hand waving, but he does not see me. I raise my voice, call his name, and instantly he knows he is found, still connected.
Our voices are gifts given to close the distance. He runs to me, secure amidst the thronging masses and we celebrate.
A child is running, I can not run alongside. They enter the water, I can not paddle out or calm the nerves I know are rising in their throat. But I can sing out with encouragement, filling my lungs and pressing all my love through the air as I shout their name in applause.
But how often do we use these same voices, and yell out tones and condemnations that push our children away, creating distance instead of connection?
For most of my life I have recoiled when I hear my voice grow loud, because I know that no matter how I try to rationalize it, I am creating a chasm between myself and my hearer.
These weeks, walking track courses and beaches while my boys pour their hearts and bodies out in sport… Now I am awed by the power my voice holds when only raised to connect, to close the distance. I call and they know I am there.
I am there with what they need. I am there to hold them when they stumble back from an event discouraged. I am there to hug and dance with each little victory. I am there with water bottles and a change of shoes. I am there to make sure they don’t lose track of the team and can find their way back home.
My voice was never meant to force them. It is most often powerful in quiet, but when the world rises up large all around, I can rise too with the wild power of a mama calling her cubs by name.
I offer them their name, when the world would overwhelm or drown it out.
Raising our voice has always been meant to close the distance, instead of create distance.
By God’s grace we can choose how we use our words, and I’m finding if I am not deeply quiet first I will never know. I have to hear my Father teaching me, calling my name loud and long , if I am too learn how to use the instrument He has given me.
Our Creator’s voice is still and small, whispering deep within our soul, respectful of our personhood, waiting for our answer. And His voice is deep and powerful, spoken above the ravages of time, the thunder of centuries. He speaks more loudly than fear and doubt, rising high as mountains, louder than the roar of generations. His words do not pass away, they close the distance, and so can ours.
. . .
If you’re reading this and want to join me, or would just like to listen and glean encouragement from others, please feel welcome to join us in the Gently + Quietly FB group!
- photos by the best Dad ever, Jesse McKeeman