Well, the kids are ecstatic. I’ve lost my voice again. Once or twice a year, I catch a cold that impacts my vocal cords. No matter how hard I try, all that comes out when I open my mouth to speak is wind. Then my family lovingly lets me know that all I’m doing is blowing a bunch of hot air.
The most frustrating part is that I’m never really all that sick from these voice-robber colds. I usually have a decent amount of energy and can carry on normal activities. I go about my day writing desperate notes on dry-erase boards, frantically grabbing for slips of paper, shaking my head at odd angles and making weird hand gestures that nobody understands. The more I try to communicate, the less I’m understood.
The best part is going out in public. Approaching a cashier, for example, becomes an adventure. I never know what kind of response I’m going to get. Eyebrows shoot up, smirks are disguised by itchy noses, laughter is stifled with sudden coughing fits and amazement concealed by objects “accidentally” dropped to the floor.
Meanwhile, my kids think this whole thing is fantastic because, without my voice, I can’t tell them what to do. I can’t nag. I can’t yell. The little darlings have a great time poking fun at poor, mute Mom — until it comes time for them to bear their share of my burden. You see, when my vocal cords are kaput, I can’t answer phones or doorbells. Two things they hate to do — well, when they know the call or bell isn’t for them, anyway.
I think our heavenly Father allows me to catch voice-robber colds in order to teach me about the joys and benefits of silence. Without the ability to communicate, there’s not much sense in being around other people unless they do all the talking. I don’t even do much e-mailing, even though it has nothing to do with my voice. Somehow the sentence of silence slows me down physically and puts me in a more prayerful, reflective mode.
And isn’t that just the right state in which to enter Lent? Forty days in the desert never sounded more natural.
I’m sure it’s no coincidence that, usually, the voice-robbers come when I’m in the middle of working on something, attempting to move in a certain direction or dealing with issues that I think are under my control.
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’”
Isaiah’s right, of course. It’s when I try my hardest to make myself heard that I end up saying the least. There’s no fighting against it. When our heavenly Father wants me silenced, I’ll be silenced. Any effort beyond that is just blowing hot air. Ash Wednesday, here I come.
Marge Fenelon writes from