Since the beginning of the semester, I’ve felt a little weird. The day after residents moved in at the end of August, my voice got really hoarse. After a few days, it backed off a little bit, but it hasn’t ever felt right since. The upper part of my range is far weaker than normal, I can barely sing two measures on one breath, my voice fatigues quickly, my vocal tone is breathier than normal…
The list goes on.
It’s a bummer if I’ve ever seen one.
I am in Chapel Choir and voice lessons at Hope and serve on worship teams at churches around Holland, and I’ve just always been a singer, so having all these problems with my voice became a major problem very quickly. Almost a month ago, my voice professor and I decided that my problems had persisted for long enough that I should see a specialist. I made an appointment with an otolaryngologist for last Friday, and he scoped my nose and throat with a little camera to see what was going on. It was actually pretty cool to be able to see the inside of my head, until we got to what we were really looking for: My vocal folds. The doctor had me say a couple of things and watched what happened (SO weird!) and then one of my biggest fears in life was realized: I have a nodule on my vocal chords (Yes, movie fans, it’s a node like in Pitch Perfect.). The doctor assured me, despite the fact that I was basically terrified, that I would be okay and recommended that I start by talking to my voice professor and possibly visiting a speech pathologist.
On Monday of this week, I went in to talk to my voice professor, who recommended at least a week of complete vocal rest. I had to speak at WyldLife club that night, so I started the next morning.
That’s right, folks.
I haven’t spoken or sung for almost a full three days.
Now you might be thinking, “How in the world are you doing that?” Let me tell you: I have literally no idea besides the fact that I really want to get better. I’m communicating via whiteboard, notes, email, and my computer speaking for me via Google translating from English to English (But sometimes it still translates wrong… Life is hard.). One of the hardest parts of this for me has been not being able to say “hi” or “thank you” or “good, how are you?” to people. I feel pretty rude all the time but there’s not too much I can do other than wearing a sign around my neck that says “I am on vocal rest and cannot speak.” Hey, maybe I should…
Anyway, on Monday night before I started this, my best friend Allix said to me, “Every time you’re wondering why you can’t talk, ask God what he needs to show you that you need to be silent for.” I’m so thankful for her perspective on something I was dreading. To be honest, it’s been hard for me to remember to do that, and my attitude has been less than positive throughout the week. I’ve drawn lots of sad faces on my whiteboard. Case in point:
Yesterday, these song lyrics popped up in my head.
If I had no voice, if I had no tongue, I would dance for You like the rising sun.
I know for a fact that I have tweeted and sung and written down those lyrics multiple times before, telling myself that if for some reason I couldn’t sing someday, I would find joy in other things that God has given me and praise him with things that aren’t my voice.
Newsflash: I haven’t been doing that.
Being a singer, whether I would have ever admitted it or not, has always been my biggest identity marker. I know it should have been Jesus and if you would have asked me, I would have claimed that it definitely was Jesus. But this week, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that it most certainly was not. That’s one thing I’m learning. I’ve told myself time and time again that I’ve put everything in God’s hands, that he is my source of joy, that my identity is found first and foremost and to its fullest in him, but I wasn’t truly in a place where all those things were true for me. I thought that changing my major from music to religion was a step in the right direction, and maybe it was, but that still didn’t change my mindset about who I was. My identity was still so rooted in being a singer. I’m realizing that I don’t exactly know what it means to trust God when I’m faced head-on with one of the things I’ve always feared the most. I’m learning that I don’t really have a clue about how to choose joy and praise the One who gives and takes away when he takes away the one thing that has always sinfully defined me, and I’m finally admitting to myself that I’ve used the gift he gave me so, so many times for my own glory and not his.
I’m less than halfway through my planned week of silence, but who knows how long I will really have to quit talking before I am fully healed? As I wrestle with my frustrations and failures and I learn to think, pray, and reflect more than I talk, I know that God still has more to show me. One thing is for sure though: My identity has to be in Him. Everything else is temporary. Everything else can be taken away. God is steadfast, and he is good.
“We bring nothing at birth; we take nothing with us at death.
The Lord alone gives and takes. Praise the name of the Lord!”