Rumination XXXV – The Other Side of Stuttering 

In the last post, the RT surprised the heck out of some folks by saying that he’s really an introvert on the inside, driven largely in part by his life as a stutterer. Difficulties in verbal communication make it difficult for someone to become involved in the casual conversations that are part of everyday life. And such was the case for the RT.

So how did the RT become an extrovert, or perhaps more accurately, an ambivert?

Well, there are several factors and the RT will give you the skinny on each one below.

An Overall Maturing

A good part of the transition from introvert to ambivert comes from the inevitable maturing that comes with age (at least for most of us). Maturity allows us to accept our “warts” and other limitations, and go on with life. Rather than being down in the dumps about what we can’t do, we gradually learn to focus on that which we can do.

And believe it or not, the less we stutterers focus on our stuttering, the less of an issue it becomes. Not that it goes away completely, but it gets easier to deal with over time (at least it did for the RT).

Encouragement At Gunpoint

Another factor that helped the RT overcome a large part of his fear of stuttering was the “encouragement” that he received from others. This was often the result of being “voluntold” to participate in some public event.

The RT’s father, known to many as Double R, voluntold him to read scripture in church when the RT was 13 years old. This was quite possibly the most terrifying moment in the RT’s journey toward ambiversion. Reading from the King James Bible (often difficult for fluent people) in front of several hundred people was definitely akin to getting thrown into the deep end of the pool. And, remember from the previous post that reading a written passage of anything is difficult for a stutterer because you can’t substitute words.

Then, at about age 14, Double R voluntold the RT to lead singing at one Sunday night at church. Remember that stutterers can sing flawlessly, but that didn’t make it easier to announce “turn to number forty four” (these last two words are sheer terror for the RT). But after leading singing for 40 years or so, at least there is no longer any embarrassment.

Other such “encouragement” from folks along the way was equally fun and “helpful”. Therapists who had the RT make asinine phone calls just to make him use the phone didn’t help. They just made the RT mad. Yes, I’m talking to you, Janet whatever your name was, my speech therapist in college. I liked you, except for this torture.

But as the old adage says: “continual dripping wears away a stone.” Not sure exactly how that relates here, but it seemed appropriate. Seriously, the thinking of those therapists was that if you keep doing it, it will become easier. And that is true to a great extent. Except phones. The RT hates phones.

Becoming An Expert

As mentioned in the last post, stutterers are driven to excel in some area other than verbal communication. For some it is writing – a wonderful escape from the challenges of stuttering (hence the RT’s penchant for blogging). For others it is their profession. Or maybe one of the arts: music, painting, dance or some other medium.

Regardless of what the outlet is, a stutterer will drive himself/herself to excel and become an expert in some field.

When that happened for the RT, he realized that the expertise that he had developed gave him something important to communicate. He took baby steps at first, talking for a few minutes in a meeting of colleagues. Then volunteering to present on a particular topic at a workshop of peers. Ultimately, this grew into regularly presenting at national conferences of hundreds of people.

It all sprang from a sincere desire to share with others the things that he had learned. And much to his surprise, people came to his presentations, lectures, speeches, or whatever, in spite of the fact that he regularly stuttered and stammered through them. And they came back multiple times … willingly. It gradually dawned on the RT that folks were willing to listen to him, regardless of the circumstances.

The RT now teaches a large adult bible class each week and doesn’t think at all about stuttering, though it happens every week. And the class members keep coming back. Maybe it’s the donuts.

What God Made

The single biggest factor in the RT’s journey to ambiversion or a level of comfort with stuttering was this realization: God don’t make no junk

(Don’t start analyzing the double negatives in that statement or you’ll miss the point.)

The RT was forty-something when it dawned on him (or was, perhaps, revealed to him) that God made everything in the universe exactly the way He wanted it to be, either by directly creating it a certain way, or by allowing the natural order to work to its end (an indirect work of God, since he set the natural order in order).

That means that the RT’s stuttering isn’t an accident or a curse. It was either God’s direct will or the result of the natural order. Either way, it was God’s work and God’s work is never a mistake. Instead, it is always the working of His plan for His purposes.

So, following that line of reasoning, the fact that the RT is a stutterer is no accident. Instead it is the result of God’s providence. Now that will really make one stop and think.

About that same time, the RT was reading the story of God’s calling Moses (for the fiftieth or so time). That’s when the RT noticed something he hadn’t before.

The story begins in Exodus 3, where God appears to Moses in the burning bush, and tells him that he is to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let Israel go. Moses was not excited by that once in a lifetime opportunity and began to give God the reasons that he wasn’t qualified: he didn’t know God’s name (God told him: “I AM”), the Israelites wouldn’t believe that God really sent him (God gave him signs to perform: his staff became a serpent, then back to a staff, his hand became leprous, then back to normal), and finally, that he didn’t speak well.

He didn’t speak well? This intrigued the RT.

This is what Moses said: “Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’” (Exodus 4:10)

Now, Moses is always on the list of famous stutterers that speech therapists share with their clients to make them feel better (bet you didn’t know that there was such a list, or that Moses was on it). James Earl Jones is also on that list (bet you didn’t know that either; can you imagine Darth Vader as a stutterer?). The RT never made the list, at least that he knows of.

So the RT knew that Moses was considered (at least by some) to be a stutterer, but had never given it much thought. After all, Moses was a famous prophet and man of God, and obviously had superpowers of some kind. He would therefore be immune to the feelings of inadequacy that stutterers feel.

But here was Moses trying to wriggle out of God’s calling, at least partially on the account of his inability to speak clearly. That was a new twist for the RT. Sounds like something the RT would do when presented with a situation where he would have to speak in an uncomfortable setting.

But it was God’s response to Moses that really set the RT back: “The LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.’” (Exodus 4:11)

Let me give you the Rambling Texan’s Paraphrase of this section of Exodus:

Moses: “Lord, I’m a stutter and my mouth doesn’t always work.

God: “Moses, don’t you think I know that?

God reminded Moses that He made man’s mouth, and more specific to this situation, Moses’ mouth. He was fully aware of Moses’ flaws and weaknesses when He called him to do the job. But call him He did.

So, if God made Moses mouth, and knew that it didn’t always work well, yet still called him to be a leader among His people, then is it possible that God knew the same about the RT’s mouth and still called him to fill certain roles in His plan?

The RT thinks that the answer is “Yes”.

In 2 Corinthians 14:7, the Apostle Paul speaks of his “thorn in the flesh”, then goes on in verse 8 to say: “Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’”

We’re not certain what Paul’s “thorn” was, but we do know from the passage above that Paul asked three times for it to be taken away. Yet, God’s answer was “No”? Why? Short answer: a weak Paul working with the power of God was much more effective in His plan than a strong Paul trying to do things on his own.

The same is true of Moses. God wanted to work through an imperfect vessel so that it would be obvious that it was His power working, rather than Moses’.

The Bottom Line

So here’s the bottom line: if the RT appears to have any ability, insight or expertise, it ain’t because the RT is something special. it’s the result of God’s power working through him. And the stuttering is there to remind us both of that fact.

So here’s the bottom line of all of this stuttering, introvert/extrovert/ambivert discussion: it’s a wonderful thing to be an instrument in the hands of Almighty God. It may have taken fifty-something years for the RT to get there, but he got there.

Best, The Rambling Texan

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