In literature, “voice” is that aspect of the author’s style, which conveys her attitude, personality, and uniqueness. It’s how a writer uses word-choice, syntax, figures of speech, even punctuation to communicate and it appears no matter what he’s writing. There is some debate concerning the value of working to discover one’s voice versus simply allowing it to emerge.
In Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says:
“It is natural to take on someone else’s style. . . . It’s a prop that you use for a while until you have to give it back. And it just might take you to the thing that is not on loan, the thing that is real and true: your own voice” (195).
“The truth of your experience can only come through in your own voice. . . . You cannot write out of someone else’s big dark place; you can only write out of your own” (199).
“You can’t get to any of these truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into [our locked] rooms and closets and woods and abysses. . . . When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in—then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home” (201).
This is the same journey home that we travel with/to God. Reread the above using the word “prayer” instead of “voice.”
Do you recognize your voice emerging as you talk with God regularly? Have you found the truth at the heart of you? Are you worried that such exploration of your darkness leads only to darkness and not to God?
David G. Benner addresses this very thorn straight away in his book The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery. Allow me to quote again: “Christian spirituality involves a transformation of the self that occurs only when God and self are both deeply known. Both, therefore, have an important place in Christian spirituality. There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self, and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God. John Calvin wrote, ‘Nearly the whole of sacred doctrine consists in these two parts: knowledge of God and of ourselves’*” (20).
We have already addressed Anne Lamott’s “big dark place” in our prayer challenge when we explored “dark” and “excuse” and “fear.” Today let’s look back at voices we have borrowed for a while to train us in our habit of prayer. Perhaps the voice you started with was loaned to you by the person or church that first taught you to talk to God. Perhaps it was some words of Scripture or other written prayers. Show us your first voice.
*John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1536 ed., trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 15.