Voice is more than simply speaking; it engages the whole self—mind, body, spirit, your true self. Using another category, such as this one, helps us access elements of identity and authenticity in a different way and can become another set of practical strategies for going about living into your own sense of truth. How we understand voice can be lodged in four categories: theological, personal, practical, and communal.
Theological, Personal, Meaningful
Voice is a theological concept because utterance is directly connected to how God expresses God’s own self. God spoke, and in doing so God revealed God’s self. Speech is revelation. Voice is intimately tied to theological revelation. In ministry, our speaking is not just our own but for the sake of God’s own expression. We speak, in part, for God speaks through us. God counts on us to emit the words of God and the Word of God so that others might hear the promises of God in their own lives. Moreover, your voice and God’s voice intersect in your expression, God’s Word and words are interpreted in your utterance.
For example, when you read Scripture aloud, that act alone is an act of interpretation. The words you emphasize—your tone, timbre, pitch, vocal variety, volume, and expressions—all communicate meaning. In that reading, you are communicating what is important to you about that Scripture passage. You are communicating what matters to you, at least for this time, place, and purpose. You are communicating, in part, who you are theologically because of what you have chosen to emphasize and what you have decided to give less import.
As a result, voice is very personal. What you have to say, how you say it, your vocabulary, your accent, your intonation, when you speak up, and when you don’t reveal your identity and your character. Your voice gives oral expression to what is deep in your soul, what is important to you. To believe in your voice, you have to believe in your identity and your own experience and believe that it deserves to be spoken out loud, it needs to be heard, and it needs to be heard by others. Believing in your voice means remembering who you are, which sometimes will demand an intentional reclaiming of your identity.
When Your Voice Is Silenced
To have a sense of how personal voice really is, think about when, how, and by whom your voice may have been silenced. What were the circumstances? What was the situation? What were you prevented from saying? How did you feel? When you are not allowed to speak, when you are shut up, it feels as if your light has been extinguished.