the supremacy of passive voice

I bought Ann Voskamp’s amazingly beautiful book, One Thousand Gifts sometime last fall, and I can’t bring myself to finish it. Every time I get more than half a chapter in, the beauty of her writing voice distracts me to envy so much that I can’t stand it.

I’ve always hated the sound of my own voice.

So, I suppose it stands to reason that I occasionally find it difficult to read my own written voice without a tendency to feel as if I’m chewing on tinfoil. I spent some time in my prayer closet this afternoon –okay, truth be known, it’s not much of a closet, but the shower, which any mother of more than a few months’ experience will tell you is as perfect a space for quiet contemplation as one is likely to find in a house full of little people most days –and decided to stop mentally flagellating myself for feeling that way and figure it out for once.

” …I was the intellectual equivalent of a 98-pound weakling! I would go to the beach and people would kick copies of Byron in my face! ” -the character John Keating

I hear that quote from the movie Dead Poets’ Society in my mind often when I read things that I wish I had written myself. Now that I think about it, I have an Anne Lamott book sitting by my bedside that is, I’m afraid, meeting the same fate as the previously mentioned one. What the problem is, I know, is really two things: pride, and untruth (specifically, believing God would give me a calling and leave me unequipped to work out that calling), with a heavy side of spiritual distraction. I picked up my copy of Michael Card’s Scribbling in the Sand the other day and found, among a list of advice to creative-type people, the counsel to shun even the thought of aspiring to fame. I scratched my head over that one, not understanding why that was important. I’ve never really wanted that. Or have I? …Perhaps that aversion to my own voice is really just that. I want to do great things for God.

Where I wound up in my meditation on that was this:

It seems a better thing to instead let God do great things through me. The only gift he asks of his people, that he asks of me, is obedience and willingness. If in the process of that, one person, or a few, are deeply blessed in their life by His words through my hands and heart, if their lives are changed in some way for the better, that is more significant than being known once-removed to a multitude who think of me as a great person with a unique talent, and are thus deceived. I think that’s what was meant when Card counseled people who work creatively to shun fame. The voice I should long to hear is not my own, or of the accolades of “influential people,” but the voice of the One that matters -saying simply, “well done.”

This desire to do great things for God has gotten me in trouble more than once, and I am far more aware of the dangers on that trail than I was a decade or so ago, but still, it’s an attractive path, and an easy enough one to find myself drifting toward. I know I’m headed in that direction when I feel that distraction to envy, that feeling of shame and inadequacy that sends me running in fits of fear back into hiding and regretting that I dared to try at all. Maybe it’s what caused the man in the parable to bury his talent rather than use it.

What I’m finding is that greatness in the eyes of God, which also goes by the name, “humility,” is found in the passive voice.