Let me tell you about Stefan. True story. Stefan is a four-year-old little boy whose mom brought in to my office the other day because of a sore throat and sinus symptoms. Stefan is one of those inquisitive kids who is always thinking. “I… I…. I’m almost five!,” he stuttered, as soon as I stepped foot in the room. “You are?!,” I replied, with my incredulous voice. “Yup!”, his countenance then changing. Puckering his lip, he pitifully continued, “I’ve got a sore froat.” His eyes filled with tears. “Aw, I’m sorry,” I said, my voice dropping too. “Let’s take a look.” After checking his ears and glands, I asked him to open his mouth. “Open your mouth and say ‘Ah,’” I said, in as reassuring tone as I could. (For some reason, when you come at a four-year-old with a flashlight and a tongue depressor, they tend to tense up). Stefan did a good job though, and I was able to get a good look on the first try. Then it came. Out of nowhere he blind-sided me. “Does ‘Ah’ really do anything?,” he asked. The way he accented “do” told me he really had his doubts.
I glanced over to his mom with one of those looks of disbelief. If he hadn’t been so serious in asking, I might have laughed out loud. “Yes, it does!,” I replied, turning back to face my inquisitor. “I can see your throat a lot better when you say ‘Ah.’ And you did a great job!” I thought it amazing that an “almost-five” year-old might wonder how saying “Ah” could help the doctor see into his throat.
Does “Ah” really do anything? It’s good question.
His question was more than a question. It was a question-statement, really. What Stefan was really saying was, “You don’t really expect me to believe that my saying ‘Ah’ will do anything more than just opening my mouth so you can look into my throat, do you?” He wasn’t doubting the opening-his-mouth part, he was questioning the saying-“Ah” part. Cute little Stefan. Two foot nothin’ Stefan. Insightful Stefan. Four-going-on-twenty-four-year-old Stefan.
It occurred to me that Stefan was simply asking a question that other patients ask too, just not out loud. “Come on Doc,” they wonder. “What’s ‘Ah’ got to do with it?” Fact is, only a small percentage of patients actually say the word “Ah” when a doctor asks them to. Most just silently open their mouths, assuming that’s what the doctor is really trying to get me to do.
Now, I have to tell you that, in the examination room, “Ah” does make a difference. It makes a difference because when you verbalize it, your tongue pushes itself to the floor of your mouth, getting out of the way for the doctor trying to see to the back. Furthermore, the louder you say it, the more the tongue gets out of the way. Try it in front of a mirror. Open your mouth. Then say it. Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. You see? Saying “Ah” gets the tongue out of the way, allowing deeper inspection. In fact, if patients would just master saying “Ah,” doctors wouldn't need near as many tongue depressors.
We all need to work on our “Ah's.” Put "Ah" up against any big word you can think of and it holds its own. Two letters can carry a lot of punch. "Ah" conveys a sense of wonder, of discovery, of bewilderment, amazement, and awe. It also carries an air of contentment, of satisfaction, and of thanksgiving. Jeremiah gives you a feeling for the word when he says, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17.
The person who says “Ah Sovereign LORD” is the one who recognizes his own puniness and God’s largeness. It is in saying “Ah” that we acknowledge that God is God and we are not.