When There’s Nothing To Say

Step up to the mic...or don't.

I haven’t had anything to say for months, so I haven’t written anything. I’m certain I’m not the only one out there who’s been at a loss for words.

The world is filled with complicated and challenging realities these days, and I should speak up.

I should have clear and focused commentary in response to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, and I should reprove people who have sent hateful messages to my LGBT+ friends in its wake.

I should decry the way immigrants and refugees are being treated in our country and call out publicly for comprehensive and humane immigration reform.

I should have an opinion about the 2018 synod happening right now.

I should have a long list here of other issues I’ve taken a stand on.

At the very least, I should be publicly preaching the Gospel somehow.

But – and it’s not my phrase – I can’t ‘should’ all over myself. It’s a messy way to live.

Still, I’m just not sure what to do when I don’t have anything to say.

***

About a month ago, my mom, niece, and I were doing some shopping. We pulled into the parking lot of a Hobby Lobby. Maybe it was Michael’s. Looking into the rear-view mirror, I saw that my niece couldn’t stop flicking her tongue in and out of her mouth; her very first tooth was loose, and it was barely holding on.

We had all been wondering for days when it would finally fall out, and in that moment, my niece decided. It was time. So, there in the car, I reached into my niece’s mouth with a Kleenex and gave the gentlest tug I could muster. Tooth gone. A little blood, no tears, a cold bottle of water, some gummy worms, and a plastic bag holding the Tooth Fairy’s first treasure from an excited and amazed little girl.

A week later, I was walking across the college campus near my house. I saw a woman running wildly next to another woman pedaling a bike and teetering dangerously. The pedaler tumbled sideways into the grass; the runner stumbled and collapsed next to her. Explosive laughter ensued. I slowed my pace to linger around for the next go.

Up again, the woman ran, and the other pedaled. Then, the runner stopped suddenly, and the pedaler pedaled on. She rounded a smooth curve, disappeared behind a campus building, and emerged from the other side, riding a bike alone for the first time in her life.

A small crowd had gathered, mostly darkly clothed college kids taking smoke breaks from the nearby library. We all applauded.

This past Sunday morning, I spent time at a house on a lake with some friends. As we sat inside drinking coffee and avoiding a November gale come early, three white-tailed deer ran down the beach. It was like ‘Baywatch,’ but with naked deer, not scantily swim-suited humans. None of us had ever seen anything like that before.

***

People need strong voices these days. We’re all looking for conviction and clarity. We need direction so we can start healing this broken world. If only finding that voice were easy for me right now. I feel like I should say something.

A priest I once knew said that to discover our voices, we can’t ask God to tell us what to say. We must ask God to show us who we are. When we know who we are, our voices will follow.

A first tooth lost, a first bike ride, a first glimpse of deer running along the lakeshore.

In recalling these simple moments, I remember that I am someone who wants to help others feel brave. I am someone who delights in people’s accomplishments. I am someone who stands in awe of the unexpected and wonderful. I am so many other things, too.

Perhaps if I take a moment to reflect and remember who I am, then my voice won’t feel worthless, forced, redundant, unimportant. When I live fully into who I am, I’ll have confidence in my own voice again. When I remember who I am, somehow, I will know what to say.

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