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Stutter Stepping

Those who study such things say that stuttering is a complex interaction between emotional, language, and motor centers in the brain. I believe it is reasonable to state that no one (except God) really understands the underlying mechanism of stuttering. As Wendell Johnson, speech pathologist (1906-1965) succinctly phrased it, “Stuttering is something the stutterer does, not something he has, because of something he is.” I remember stuttering as a child, and the reactions I got from others. The memory of the stereotypes actually made the stuttering real for me since my emotional memory of being labeled as someone deficient seemed to inhibit sound when I would go to speak.

Today it still happens with sneezes. Sometimes I have a healthy, normal A-CHOO. Other times, especially if I have to sneeze again after one or two sneezes, and I become consciously aware of my sneezing and how others might perceive it as a disturbance, my sneeze is stifled, and if any sound comes out at all, it sounds distorted, stunted, and quite strange. Not like a sneeze at all.

You may not have a stutter or a stunted sneeze, but if you have ever had a blockage, a clog in the flow of your relationships, then you know the cold sweat that self-doubt creates on your brow. Though your speech may be clear as glass, you beat around bushes, back pedal, or I’ll call it “stutter step” the words that you allow to come out of your mouth for fear that you will be misunderstood, written off, or just not accepted for who you are if you simply spoke your mind freely and forthrightly. Have you ever stepped back from a conversation and wondered who that was in your shoes speaking for you?

I used to sing before rather large audiences. When I first began to do this, I sang well. After some time, my voice would unexpectedly shake uncontrollably. I wouldn’t stutter, but the same process transpired. I was anxious about how I would be received by others. I remember wanting to run away from myself, but no matter how far I ran, there I was.

Eventually, I was able to train my mind to focus on what I could give to each person in the audience. After a reasonable amount of preparation where I would memorize the words and notes, I would internalize the song on a more emotional level focusing on what message I hoped to communicate. I told myself that even if only one person got that message, I considered the song a success and evaluated my own performance as successful. To this day, as long as I keep this in mind, I can modulate my voice tone, volume, and diction to tell the story I want to tell. Like a master swordsman, my voice is in my hand to wield under my full control, both my weapon of offense or defense, whatever I need or want for it to be. All this with full knowledge that the breath that dances over my vocal cords is from God, that each breath is a gift, not one guaranteeing the next. I thank God for sanctification and for making me secure that since He gave me a voice, He wants me to use it. How? By learning His truth, and speaking it in a way that brings Him glory, with gentleness and patience, considering others better than myself, and that with confidence!

Keeping this in mind, we can choose our words with wisdom and humility, giving and forgiving, extending agape love, pulling out the stops, unclogging the pipes, cleaning out resentment and bitterness, and allowing the relational air in motion to unabashedly flow. Sieze the moments of the day with faith in the One to whom the day belongs. And whether we fail or succeed, we rely on Christ, not on ourselves, fixing our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith. ~ kw

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