By Anthony Casperson
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been watching the ABC series Marvel’s Inhumans. A spin-off series of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the show follows a family of superpowered individuals. One of the characters is the king, Black Bolt, whose brother (Maximus) attempts to depose.
Black Bolt is an interesting character, not because of his incredible superpower, but because of the fact that it’s rarely used. Most superheroes use their powers so much that they can sometimes become dependant on using them and feel like nothing when they’re taken away.
But Black Bolt’s power is something that he must keep under control so that he doesn’t hurt those he loves. His voice is so strong that it destroys anything it’s directed at. Buildings, vehicles, enemies, and loved ones. To even whisper can kill.
This means that Black Bolt must communicate in a manner other than verbal. His powerful voice essentially renders him voiceless. It separates him from his people, from his advisors, and even from his family. Only the very few who can understand his version of sign language can interpret for him.
His voiceless status forces him to spend much time in isolation. And only around certain people can he ever be understood. He is powerful. He is a king. But his inability to be heard causes much internal agony. It makes him feel powerless, worthless, and unable to connect with people.
As I recently watched the season finale of the series, I felt some kinship with Black Bolt.
(No, I’m not a superhero.) A recent bout with illness left me with a very little voice for quite a few days. I spent most of those days speaking as little as I could. (Which is surprisingly difficult, even for someone who is known for being a quiet type of guy.)
Rendered nearly voiceless, it kept me from saying very much during my mentor’s memorial service last week. It kept me from going to church the next day. And even though I went to work during the week, I felt very separated from people because of the inability to communicate without pain. It made me feel powerless. And questions of my worth without my voice arose in my head.
Being voiceless causes much distress. And there are people in this world who live this way everyday. I don’t just mean the mute, but people who live feeling like they have no advocate. People who aren’t listened to. People who are left on the sidelines. People who fall through the cracks. Those left outcast, forgotten, and thrown away.
I have felt drawn to such people for a large portion of my life, and have felt myself one such person pretty much my whole life, but this past week made me understand voicelessness in a whole new level.
Despair can easily be found when communicating seems far away. It’s difficult to experience love when you’re separated from people. And pain seems closer than wholeness when you feel like less than normal.
I don’t want this to be a brief moment where I say that we need to try harder to draw the people on the fringes into the love of God. Nor do I want this to be a trite little “God loves you no matter how you feel.”
Rather, I’d like to say that if you are feeling voiceless, you are still powerful, worth a lot, and needed by those who forget to listen to you. God has made you to experience life with him just as much as those who won’t shut up long enough for you to be heard.
He is there showering his love and glory on you. In 1 Cor. 12, Paul writes about the whole body of Christ. We all need each other, even when some feel more important than others. I can think of no greater way of concluding my thoughts about place of the voiceless than with the words of the Apostle himself.
“On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (1 Cor. 12:22-26)