I’ve known since the 70s that I pick up accents and speech patterns of those around me. Steve claims he can tell when I’ve talked to one of my Southern aunts on the phone, for I’ve lapsed into the pronunciation patterns of my youth. Conversely, on my first day of any visit to Tennessee, I might hear comments about my “soundin’ like a Yankee.”
When we lived in Illinois, I taught with my dear friend Enid. She had a distinctive way of speaking, and often Steve would say, “You sound just like Enid.” (I accepted this without offense, unlike the “You sound just like your mother,” which carried a completely different implication!)
But I was especially surprised recently when Finn called me on that. I’d just been talking to Lori, who cleans for us. Then when I answered Finn’s question, he said, “You’re talking in her voice.”
“Whose?” I asked, puzzled.
He gestured toward the room she was cleaning. “Hers.” And I realized he was right. Her voice is more guttural than mine, with a different cadence. I’d mimicked her without realizing it.
I love the way my friend Laura prays, but I never thought of trying to copy her—just to learn from her obvious connection with God. But as we finished our prayers together that night, Finn said, “You were using Miss Laura’s voice.” Really? I had no idea.
He explained: “Your voice doesn’t sound like hers. You were talking in Miss Laura’s voice.” As though repeating it would help me to understand.
“OK, if you say so,” I said.
“That was in your voice,” he said, matter-of-factly. He seemed relieved that I could get back to my own voice.
Wow! The perception of a three-year-old! It really made me think.
What voice do others hear from me? Is it the voice of God, speaking through me? How can I make sure that the voice people hear is genuine, “from above, and [coming] down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning?” (James 1:17, KJV)
See? I can even quote scripture in a different “voice.” Even though I’ve read and studied the NIV for over twenty-five years, at times the old King James Version just pops into my head without forethought. Maybe I’d better update that one with “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV.) May God continually give each of us the gift of an appropriate voice in every situation.