Faith & Fandom
Skyrim: The Power Of Voice
Skyrim is an installment of the Elder Scrolls game series, I played a little bit of the previous installment Oblivion, but beyond that, Skyrim has been my most involved journey into this world. I picked up Skyrim upon it's initial release in 2011 and delved fairly deep into the world of Elder Scrolls. I got to the point of trapping Odahviing in Dragonsreach and was trying to level up before taking down Alduin, but somewhere in the midst of life, I got tired and just gave up, probably trading the game for an insignificant value at Gamestop for another game that took less time and effort. I enjoyed the game though, and with the recent re-release and remastering, I'm once again traveling down the road of the Dragonborn, and I'm right back in the same spot. I've got Odahviing trapped, and I'm only level 13 and would like to be at least 25 or 30 before I square off against Alduin. At the same time I've also gotta write this book, so we will see which one happens first.
The thing that has hit me so strongly about the game is that outside of it just being a insanely large open world adventure, one of the focuses is on the player's voice. You begin the game finding out you are a Dragonborn of legend. This means you have the body of a man, but deep within you the soul of a dragon. This means you have an inherent gift to speak in the language of the dragons. Your voice, shouts, or "Thu'um" is part of who you are. Each of the shouts consist of three words of power you learn throughout the game and have a variety of functions. Your shouts can bind dragons to the earth, give you immense speed, set things on fire, or even clear the skies. While we may not have the soul of a dragon or go around publicly shouting at the top of our lungs (I hope not anyway), our words do have power and can be one of the most beneficial or destructive forces in our lives.
Since the beginning of Biblical history, we have seen the force words have. God literally spoke the world into existence.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light." (Genesis 1:1-3)
If you keep reading through Genesis 1 and on, you see that God spoke each piece of creation into being. I try to imagine the sheer force and beauty of that sound as God speaks and the world responds. I'm sure it's a bit more impressive than "Fus Ro Dah!" Even going just beyond what God did in the beginning,, we see the powerful displays of voice go on through Jesus as well. In Mark 4:37- 41 Jesus uses his own personal shout of "Lok Vah Koor (Clear Skies) shout when a storm almost takes the disciples out.
"A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!””
Not only did Jesus speak over the elements, His voice even made death obey when He called Lazarus out of the grave. Check out John 11:41-44:
"So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.””
I love this story of Jesus coming into a heartbreaking situation and, simply with his voice, calling His dead friend to return from the grave, but not with a gentle whisper. The scripture said, "Jesus called in a loud voice." Once again we see the power of the voice.
That power goes beyond just what we see in the power and person of God. It passes down to and through us. There are more similarities we see with this as we follow the Dragonborn as well. Your shouts are powerful tools in the game, but even though you have the gift inside of you, you can't access them until you learn the words. There are 20+ shouts in the game once you factor in expansions, but you have to go to some extents to gain them. Some you learn from the Greybeards, some you can learn from Paarthurnax, and some are found randomly written on walls all throughout Skyrim. The one factor remains that it is on you to learn them. You have to make the effort to go and learn these words if you want to be able to manifest the ability that lies in your blood and your throat.
As believers in Christ, we have power in our words as well, but just like the Dovahkiin, we must make an effort to learn them. We learn in different ways, like through reading books (hey like this one!), sitting under Biblical teaching in churches, listening to good music, or studying God's Word. You have to make the effort to seek out The Word. If you tried to play Skyrim without actually learning the words of power, you wouldn't make it very far, and if you try to follow God without actually learning His Word, you will definitely won't go far. God's Word is truly the Word of Power. The author of Hebrews writes, "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). We need to make an effort to not only learn it passively, but have it hidden in us. I'm super grateful that when you learn a word of power in Skyrim that it saves to a menu. If I had to actually memorize and input the shouts each time, I would seriously never make it far in the game. We need to have the passion and drive for the Word that we see in Psalm 119:9-16 when the author writes the following:
"How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”
If we seek after God's Word, we truly will have a spiritual Thu'um that will equip us for any task.
I painfully learned a lesson in Skyrim about learning the Words of Power when I came across Miraak. I was just trying to level up on my way to kill Alduin, so I went onward with the quest that brought me face to face with Miraak, the first Dragonborn. I thought it was cool, and to be honest one of the most intimidating presences in the game. Halfway through the quest, I discovered that once you effectively tick Miraak off, he makes it personal. When you slay a dragon, he will come in and steal the soul of the dragon before you can absorb it. That means that without the ability to absorb the dragon souls, the words you learn simply remain words. I needed the shout "Bend Will" to make a dent against Miraak, and I've learned the shout, but I can’t use it without another dragon soul. I've killed 8 dragons since this point and every time, Miraak steals it. I have 7 different shout's I've learned that I haven't been able to use yet because I've got all word and no spirit. Its important for us as believers to understand this as well. Unless this Spirit of God is dwelling in us, the Word of God will simply seem like words. The wisest of God's Word will seem like foolishness in our own understanding. Check out 1 Corinthians 2:6-11:
"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”
If you've tried reading the Bible before and it's felt like nothing is speaking to you, maybe it's because you need to be in a relationship with God or closer to Him to hear and understand His Word. Before you read, seriously stop and pray and ask Him to help you understand. Otherwise, reading could come up empty and feel like the nagging chance of Miraak popping up and saying, "Not this time, Dragonborn."
One of the problems with having the voice of the Dragonborn is using it at the right time. I don't know about you, but there have been several time when I'm playing and I accidentally shout some poor townsperson off a ledge or set an innocent bystander on fire. I could blame it on the button configuration, but in all reality, I just mess up sometimes and shout at the wrong time. That, or I use the wrong shout for the situation. I spent a battle with a dragon shouting for clear skies, and wondering why dragonrend wasn’t working. These words are indeed powerful, but they also need to be used in the right way.
One of the sad things about Christian culture is that a majority of what is done is people running around shouting the wrong things at the wrong people at the wrong time. Paul recognized this was an issue long before we were dealing with it. Look at what he requested and instructed in Colossians 4:4-6:
"Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
He shows us that we need to be clear in how we present the words God gives us, that we need to act in wisdom, and that we need to make the most of every opportunity. He tells us that our words need to be gracious and not unpleasing to the ears, but actually something that is flavorful and desirable that actually fits the situation we are in. Not that our words have to be sugarcoated, but that they are appropriately delivered. Each person and each situation is going to need to be handled appropriately, and when all we do is run around shouting unrelenting force at people, no one benefits. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that, "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Our words literally carry the power of life and death, and we have to be cautious in how we are using them. Ephesians 4:29 is one of my favorite pieces of scripture on our voices. It reads, ”Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Paul once again reminds us that our voices should use their power to build up, meet needs, and be beneficial to those who hear it.
Outside of the Dragonborn's voice having the ability to manifest itself in force, it also can summon those it needs to summon. "Raan Mir Tah" can call animals to your aid like a Snow White/Aquaman combo. "Od Ah Viing" can summon a dragon. "Hun Kaal Zoor" will call for people to come assist you, and others like it. Shouting out for the assistance, power, and guidance you need is essential to your quest, but the same is true for us as we live in this world. Yes, we need to learn the Word. Yes, we need to be cautious in how we use our words. But truly, one of the most important things we can learn about our voice is to call out to our Father. Calling out to God is one of the most vital and essential things we can do as followers of Christ, but often it's one of the most neglected. If I'm completely honest, my prayer life isn't the greatest. I get caught up in doing the work on my own and not asking Him for help or guidance. I try and solve mine and everyone else's problems in my own strength, and it burns me out and leaves me weak. We have to recognize that, like the Dragonborn, our voice has a unique power not because of who we are, but because through Christ we have a direct link to our Father in Heaven.
Hebrews 7:24-25 shows us this clearly when the authors writes, "But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." Even in Romans 8:34, Paul writes, ”Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." We see that because of our relationship with Christ, not only is our voice heard, but Christ's voice is heard on our behalf. We don’t have to shout into heaven wondering if anyone hears or cares; we know that Christ not only hears, but relays our heart beyond even our word’s capabilities to our Father. We just need to understand that for our voice to have power, we need to use it to call on the one who gives us power in the first place.
God gives us this promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." I think back to the scenes in the game where people want proof that you are Dragonborn, and the only way you can show this is to use the power of your voice. God is calling us to use our voice, not in our own power, but to humble ourselves as we cry out to Him, knowing that it's only because of His power our voice has strength. I made the mistake of wearing headphones loudly at the scene where they Greybeards all shout at you at once. The power of their voice echoing in surround sound was a bit overwhelming, but when we call out to God and stand ready, we will hear and see Him moving around us in so much more powerful ways.
Don't remain silent. Use your voice. Shout. Just as the Dragonborn speaks with the voice and power of the dragons, we as believers speak have access to the voice and power of our great God.
"After that comes the sound of his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice. When his voice resounds, he holds nothing back. God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding." (Job 37:4-5)
This is the voice behind His words. This is the voice that calls out to us. This is the voice that speaks through us when we allow him to, and this is the voice that responds to us when we call out. Fus Ro Dah.