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The Hidden Voice

Reading to our son Nash is one of our most beloved rhythms. We enter a world where time stands still and pages spring to life.

I can still remember the very first story Kate and I ever read to Nash. We settled into bed, our infant son swaddled between us, and we opened On the Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman. I managed three words before I was a mess. (The I cannot speak another word variety). Gratitude and thankfulness poured out of me.

A few weeks ago Nash and I were in the middle of “In Front of My House”  by Marianne Dubuc. As I turned the page Nash proudly identified the lion and waited for my familiar question.

‘What does the Lion say?’ I asked. He responded with a timid and uninspired roar. In days gone by I’d move quickly to the next page quietly assuming that this was all he could muster, but this time I paused and asked again.

‘Nash, what does the Lion say?’

Somewhat reluctant he roared shyly, but as soon as that tiny roar escaped his mouth my face lit up, my body shook, and my eyes opened wide as if I’d just encountered the king of the jungle face-to-face. His response was immediate. He giggled with delight and without prompt he roared again, this time louder than the last. I fell to the floor and trembled for my life. Nash couldn’t get enough, and neither could I.

We continued on for ten minutes, laughing, roaring, and responding. I watched with wonder as my son’s entire posture changed. Soon he was on all fours and every new roar dripped with a confidence the last one lacked. His eyes were filled with life as his roar was now, quite literally, thundering through the house. And he laughed, oh, did he laugh.

There was a tangible goodness hanging in the air, and I felt like I could breathe it in.

My son was discovering his voice. He was discovering that it was good, and beautiful and powerful. I replay that night over and over as I ponder its profound lessons. It was not something I planned for, but it’s still stirring and unearthing things in me.

I see your story and my story in Nash; each of us born with a voice filled with beauty and potential. We start off so unsure, so timid, and so guarded. Over time we let out tiny roars that begin to reveal our unique voice. This experience with my son underscored that how we move forward and what we believe about our voice is profoundly fashioned and formed by the response, or lack thereof, that we receive.

What would it look like to become a person devoted to calling things out of others? A person who graciously offers a safe space for others to roar. A space where even the most timid and hidden voices are granted value. A space you could witness people transforming and stepping into their potential. A space filled with stories and voices that would eventually be thundering their way through the world.

I wonder if today you could identify someone who needs the reminder that there is a hidden voice within, brimming with goodness, waiting to escape and come to life. Maybe it’s a spouse who over time has become voiceless because they’ve always chosen to listen first. It could be a single parent you know; who, by necessity has put their own life on hold for the sake of their kids. Perhaps it’s a dear friend who didn’t receive your full attention the last time you were together.

Sit with them. Listen to them. Ask them questions. Be OK with silence as they dig and search for their voice. Encourage them to speak up and when they do, respond. Laugh, cry, fall to the floor, be excited for them, be excited with them, and let them know you hear them. Tell them that what they have to offer is good.

Who is waiting for your response today? Who do you need to sit with so you can ask more questions? Who needs your help discovering or remembering how to roar?

I think you’ll be surprised by how much fun it is to watch the people you love come to life.

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