A close friend of mine followed me to my office after my sermon this Sunday and cut to the chase with a penetrating question:

“Who is Brad without his voice?”

Close friends can do that.

Oddly enough, I’ve been forced to explore the constellation of truths orbiting this question during several seasons in my life. The first was a forty day speaking fast during which I could speak only when spoken to. The second season was inaugurated by a freak injury that cracked the cartilage plate in my throat and left my vocal chords damaged and bloody. For a week or two, my prayers circled like vultures over pulpit dreams that looked like they might give up the ghost, but didn’t.

In both cases, the voice silenced was physical. In both cases, I grieved losing that voice. In both cases, I learned lessons about trust, prayer, control, and surrender. So when my friend asked me the question this time around, I paused. Why would God lay it on Paul’s heart to ask me? Haven’t I learned this yet, Lord? Haven’t I emptied this mine of gold nuggets?

I guess not.

Who am I, then, without my voice?

I can write. My voice is literary, not just literal.

But voice also describes my style, my bent, my unique flavor and flare. My heart, the spirit I bring to the table whenever I’m present. In reality, my true voice struggles in vain to find words able to paint the grand visions igniting its imagination. I am far more than an audible voice. If I would ever lose the ability to speak, I’d grieve deeply, but I also pray I’d have the grace to embrace the fact that I hadn’t lost my true voice. My voice is all of me, expressed—and there are a million ways to express me. I would have to learn to find a way.

Just ask Helen Keller.


I’ve just answered the question, “What is my true voice?” But I haven’t answered, “Who am I without my voice?”

Jesus, go deep.