I have been a stutterer all my life. The PC way to say things when I was young was, “Joe has a speech impediment”
Whatever – fact of the matter is, I stutter.
I sometimes forget that I stutter because I have learned so many coping skills to help me work around problem words. If you know me, you might not even know I stutter.
This has not always been the case. Some of you out there in social media land that knew me growing up can attest to this. It was rough:
He-he-he-he ll-llo m-m-my n-n-name is J-j-joe.
Seriously, it was really bad.
My parents sent me to speech therapists and I took speech correction classes all the way through 5th grade.
But yesterday I was at the gym talking with a guy and I noticed a pause in his speech and it got me thinking about my stutter.
I can spot a stutterer a mile away because I know all the tricks.
You see, as a stutterer, you can feel the stutter coming on. It’s hard to describe, but just like you might be able to see a deer in the middle of the road and slow down, a stutterer can generally feel that they are going to get stuck and there are all kinds of tactics to avoid the problem word.
My tactic of choice over the years has been to choose a different word or stop and rephrase. The more you are around me, the more you will catch me doing it.
Sometimes, however, it’s unavoidable and I still stammer through a word. This goes in patches – sometimes I’ll have weeks where I stutter terribly, and then I’ll go for months with little to no problems.
My First Time On Stage
My first time on stage was in elementary school. I had the part of a mailman in some play and all I had to do was step up and say my line. No acting, no dancing, just step out front and say the line.
Well, of course, I got stuck and, if you have never stuttered it’s hard to imagine, but sometimes words get stuck in your throat. No matter what you do, you can’t get your mouth to function and you just stand there holding out the syllable.
I might want to say, “I am going to the gym today to play racquetball” But R is always a sticky letter with stutterers. So it might come out:
“I’m going to the gym to play rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaquetball.
It’s like trying to blow up one of those stupid balloons that they use for balloon animals and the thing just won’t blow up and then you get a little bit ofg air to go into it and you pinch it and take a big breathe and think, “Oh sweet goodness – that was crazy!”
Same terrible feeling, except everyone is standing there watching the train wreck.
Back to the story:
I got stuck on the word, could not get it out, and ran off the stage crying.
WHAT A GREAT FIRST EXPERIENCE!
Memorizing and Singing
One thing that I realized rather quickly was that I did not stutter when I sang or when I had something memorized. I think the singing has something to do with breathe control and rhythm. The memorizing, I think, was God.
My first crack at memorizing Scripture was in an event called Junior Bible Quiz. On “quotation questions” you had the quote the verse or verses perfectly. If you added a “the” or said “thee” instead of “thou” you were wrong. Serious.
And at the beginning of every match my coach (yes we had a coach – for real the competition was intense. I’ve never been a part of a Bible knowledge competition like it) would stand up and let the judge know that I had a speech impediment. That way, if I stuttered on a quotation question, I would not be counted off for repeating a word.
Yes, everyone, the kid with the big ears and terrible acne also has a speech impediment – go ahead – stare at him – get a goooood look.
But I almost never had a problem. When I quoted God’s Word, my tongue freed up significantly.
Over the last several years God has developed a love in my for preaching and teaching the Bible. If you would have told that 12-year-old boy that some day he would be giving 40 minute sermons in front of thousands of people, he would have laughed you right off the stage. I had always been a music guy and when the idea of preaching came up I had the same attitude that Moses had when God approached him about talking to Pharoah:
Exodus 4:10 (NIV)
But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but oI am slow of speech and of tongue.”
And then after the Israelite people reject him upon his return to Egypt, he uses this excuse again.
Exodus 6:12 (NIV)
But Moses said to the Lord, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips
But God had an excellent answer for Moses, and I believe that He has answered me in the same way:
Exodus 4:11-12 (NIV)
Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
God has given me a passion and love for teaching his word and, to be quite honest, I almost never stutter when I preach. It’s like my tongue is unleashed and any worry about getting stuck goes away.
In my younger years I hated my stutter – it drove me crazy (especially when people would finish sentences for me).
But I think that it is a good reminder for me today that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.
What is your weakness? Where do you feel like you’re not good enough?
God’s grace is sufficient for you – His power is made perfect in your weakness – Embrace it.