When We Must Use Another Part Of Our Spirit

by Rev. Dr. Susan Smith

It shouldn’t have been a surprise but it was for me: people who stutter do not stutter when they sing.

In fact, even while speaking, if people who stutter kind of “sing” what they are trying to say or, as in the case of Marilyn Monroe, use a different type of voice sound and pattern when they speak, they effectively shut the stutter down. The reason Monroe “whispered” as she spoke, making people think she had an alluring and “sexy” voice was because it was the only way she could hide the fact that she was a stutterer.

A woman who is a stutterer actually gave a talk, where she stuttered, and then sang, when she didn’t stutter at all. She talked for five minutes, and stuttered the whole time. She sang for 5-7 minutes, and didn’t stutter one bit.

There are scientific and medical reasons for this, but there is one part of all the technical explanation that is really important: when people sing, or talk as did Marilyn Monroe, they use the right brain. Speech control is on the left side of the brain, but the right side of the brain is the side which is in control when we sing. The right side of the brain controls our vocal cords, our lips and tongue. When we sing, we apparently sing “from the heart,” demanding a different skill set than we do when we speak, which demands control of syllables.

It is a lot more complicated than that, but basically the message is that we use something different in our brains when we sing, and that part of our brain pushes aside the activity of the left brain which causes stuttering.

B.B. King, Nancy Wilson and Carly Simon were all stutterers.

Can we triumph over parts of our spirit that cause us to stumble in life? Author Lysa TerKeurst  in her book Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Lonely and Left Out, writes that when we are feeling the way her title indicates, we are misaligned. We are enough, but too often we hone in on the part of our spirit that makes us feel …out of sync with everyone else and sorely deficient. We too often align ourselves with parts of our spirit which were formed long ago and were heavily influenced by people whom we loved and respected, and have held our heads down instead of up and our arms crossed firmly over our hearts to protect us.

“They” told us we didn’t matter, couldn’t do anything right, were “not as good as …” and we bought it. Our buy-in to their words and opinions caused us to have stuttering spirits, spirits which hold us back and keep us in bondage.

But God is great. The same God who made it possible for a person who stutters to sing without stuttering is the same God who can get us to let go of the issues, experiences, memories and words which have kept our spirits enslaved to spiritual and emotional pain. How can God do that?

It must be that part of the solution is for us to concentrate on the beauty of God’s holiness, the majesty of God’s creative genius. When a stutterer sings, he or she relies on that part of the brain which controls the vocal cords, lips and tongue. There is a part of our spirit which controls and directs the way we hear and see, the same part of our spirit which forces us to smile at the way a dog holds its head or marvel at, as Alice Walker wrote, “the color purple.” Around us God has put things which demand that we come out of ourselves and see that the Lord is good. Those things can turn one’s mourning into dancing.

We must look for the ways to make our spirits will sing and not insist upon trudging through and pulling along the mud and swamps of what has happened in our lives. All lives have mud and swamps, but we all have God, too, a God who longs to see us smile and move forward in spite of where we have been, what we have heard and what we have been told.

In not searching for another part of our spirit to use, we can become twisted up, tightly coiled and unable to move through life with joy and purpose. Surely, God would want us to find the part of our spirit that may yet be unused, which has a song which is dying to come out. It is worth the effort to at least look for it.

Amen and amen.

About The Author

Dr. Susan Smith Dr. Susan K. Smith is the former pastor of the Advent United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio. She received her education from Occidental College, Yale University, and United Theological Seminary. She is the author of five books and the proud mother of two children.

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