Mute Twenty-Two

Meet Josh. Josh developed a speech impediment as a child and as a result, did not speak to anyone until he was twenty-two years old. His story will impact you greatly! Read below and be sure to watch the 3 minute video of Josh and his family at the bottom of the page.  It is an honor to welcome my brave and vulnerable friend, Josh, to the blog today...

Photo Credit: Directors, Krissy Collins & Joanna Horner; Edited by Gabi Brown

Photo Credit: Directors, Krissy Collins & Joanna Horner; Edited by Gabi Brown

Everyone thinks silence is bad…but there’s something about the silence that strengthens the skill of listening.  To hear what’s good and what’s not, what builds and what devastates. 

I did not talk to anyone until I was 22.  I can still hear their voices, the ones that destroyed me daily, pitching me a barrage of insults.  “Sticks and stones”…but I would have settled for sticks and stones any day of the week.

There’s something wrong with him. He shouldn't be in regular classes. He stutters like a train. Cha-cha-chew-chew!

The bathrooms became my bunker, my hiding place.  The stalls were quiet and safe, no expectations to live up to, no fear of failure.  I always failed them it seemed.  My stuttering…it disappointed them.  And so I’d break for the bathroom, sitting there as I cried my frustrations alone.  Always alone. I sat in far too many rooms where everyone was sharing life and making plans…everyone but me.  I was there too, except I was background furniture, like wallpaper.  A nothing.  A nobody.

Home wasn’t much different.  I remember the blaring silence…and the loneliness.  It felt small, as small as the bathroom stalls I used to sit in. They say the little-to-no interaction at home is what brought all this on, all my stuttering.  And so I stayed quiet, because it was safer that way.  The embarrassment I must have caused.

I learned to exist, nothing more, nothing less.  Never to thrive and never to die.  I was just taking up space.  Is there purpose for such a thing?

Photo Credit: Directors, Krissy Collins & Joanna Horner; Edited by Gabi Brown

Photo Credit: Directors, Krissy Collins & Joanna Horner; Edited by Gabi Brown

I was eleven when I met Ella.  It was the first time I felt important.  She came to know my sister and me and soon after began taking us to church.  This place was unlike anything I had experienced.  It was like light, warm and dazzling with kind people who looked you in the eye and cared to know your name.  The Jesus I heard about sounded nice, and I saw him in these people.  And for the first time I felt seen…for the first time I felt worth something.

A few years later, Ella moved, leaving my sister and me without transportation to church, and the darkness became familiar again.  Those seeds of hope once planted became dormant.  The heat had run its course and scorched what little growth remained. 

For countless nights I’d lie in bed thinking of Ella and all the people who gave their love away to me.  I had never known such a love, that such compassion could be acquired.  And the loss of it hurt me so deeply that eventually I would drown it out with something I could control.  So I found anything and everything strong enough to lock away the pain.

Alcohol became my comforter.  My heart had turned to granite…my tears to stone.  I had learned how to not bother people with my baggage.  It was easier this way.

But below the surface, I still wanted to believe in the fairytale, that life was good…that God really did love me, like the preacher said so many years before in that small, warm church.  I wanted to believe in the attainable hope, beauty and love I had seen in action.  This was the desire of my heart.

Photo Credit: Directors, Krissy Collins & Joanna Horner; Edited by Gabi Brown

Photo Credit: Directors, Krissy Collins & Joanna Horner; Edited by Gabi Brown

Photo Credit: Directors, Krissy Collins & Joanna Horner; Edited by Gabi Brown

Photo Credit: Directors, Krissy Collins & Joanna Horner; Edited by Gabi Brown

After years of lingering in the darkness, one day a friend asked me to attend church with him.  I walked into that Sunday morning service, still feeling scared of what could be lost, wondering at the familiarity of everything I was seeing.  But it felt so good to be back in the only place I had ever felt truly accepted, truly loved.  

While eating dinner one evening, I met a young girl who attended my church.  This girl, Sarah, began to pursue me.  This was odd because I never had anyone who genuinely wanted to know me, but she did.  She invested time with me, looking past my disabilities and empowering me to take captive my insecurities.  She was God's gift to me.  My angel.  God used Sarah to tear down the deadly walls that had been built around my heart for all those years.  Sarah saw me.  And through that love I knew the Lord saw me too, and that He was trustworthy. 

Sarah soon became my wife, and after three years of marriage with no training and very little biblical knowledge, God began leading me to pursue ministerial credentials.  He revealed Himself as my helper, a friend walking with me...enlightening truth and the revelation of His word and the desires of His Kingdom.  I now lead and teach, speaking the word of God boldly with the authority of the Holy Spirit. 

I remember the power of people’s words in the past—how they dismantled me, and now it’s my joy to take part in God’s redemptive work…to dismantle brokenness in others by revealing Jesus.