It’s been Quite the Month Around Here
I’m about to try and dialogue a little about what God has been doing in my life over the past month or two. Bear with me as some of what you’ll read is fairly scatterbrained, but is what life has been like for us.
June…the month it all began
Sometime in June I started noticing that I was struggling with my voice. I thought it was just regular wear and tear from teaching and preaching and all that good stuff. I started worrying whenever a month had gone by and there was no improvement. Partially concerned because I was given the opportunity to lead worship for a group at a camp called Super Summer, and wasn’t sure how it was going to work with being as hoarse as I was before the week began. As I got to the training weekend before the camp, my vocal integrity was fairly non-existent. I could muster up some decent racket when it came to singing but it was rough. I thought nothing of it until Tuesday night when I was unable to sing notes that were typically within my vocal range.
The next morning, as I was starting to lead music for our group, I was struggling to make any noise that didn’t resemble Scuttle from “The Little Mermaid”. Fortunately, our group was small and was okay with not having music for the rest of the week. They may have been okay with it, but I was feeling a full range of emotions. Emotions ranging from embarrassment to frustration, all the way to depression.
During that week of camp, I ended up sitting back and listening and having quite a bit of alone time. The quiet and alone time wasn’t all bad, but I missed being with students and fellow pastors. By the end of the week, thinking everything was okay, I decided to try and sing in the car on the way home…not a wise choice. Not being able to use my voice severely limited my ability to communicate, so the decision was made that visiting an ENT needed to happen.
The visit to the doctor revealed that I had a nodule on my left vocal cord. Cue the “Pitch Perfect” quotes and memes from all of my friends. I’ve never seen the movies, so I didn’t understand the joke references that wouldn’t stop. After receiving a sentencing to two weeks of vocal rest, I had to figure out how to function. I also had to lean on my volunteers to lead our student ministry. That was extremely difficult because, as it turns out, I like to be able to micromanage at some level.
We made it through one Sunday morning with me on the sidelines watching my volunteers rock and roll, but that was just the beginning. Camp was during the second week of prescribed silence. Camp, where it is a necessity to be able to yell, scream, sing, and talk at the top of your lungs. The crazy doctor told me that I could absolutely not speak during camp.
Well, the first week of silence was bearable. There was a lot of noise making from me to try and “dad” properly. If you haven’t tried that before, pass on it if you can. But camp was looming on the horizon. First, a sponsor meeting on Saturday night. I had to conduct said meeting with a combination of a dry erase board and a computer hooked up to a TV. That went fairly well, and I was able to relay all the information to my people. Next up, was the parent meeting. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work, especially because I couldn’t talk at all. After muscling my way through by typing on a computer hooked up to a projector, I was ready to go to camp.
I made it through Tuesday at camp without speaking at more than a whisper. By Wednesday morning, however, I’d had enough. I decided to start with lower volume speaking and ended up in full shouts by Thursday afternoon.
Throughout this whole time, I had several friends tell me they couldn’t wait to hear what God was teaching me.
The first week, I was so wrapped up in self-pity and frustration that I was missing what I needed so badly. I needed to stop trying to do it all and just listen and watch for God to move.
One of my fellow local ministers shared a passage in 1 Kings 19 with me, and I missed it when he shared it with me. After reading it a few times, I finally got what his point was. The passage was 1 Kings 19:9-13, which says:
“There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
At camp, during the second week of my assigned silence, one of my good friends and mentors was teaching about silence with God. He, of course, made the required jokes about how I should be the one teaching the study. But, his passage to teach on was none other than the one my other friend shared with me the week before. The Lord officially had my attention.
Being still is hard, but is necessary
Once I decided to watch and listen to what God was going to do, I saw the Holy Spirit moving in my students. We had one of our students give her life to Jesus, which is amazing on its own. Her back story, however, is what makes everything so much sweeter. This particular student had been fighting the Lord for a while on whether or not she had a real relationship with Jesus. She wasn’t sure if she just had a case of coattail faith. Wednesday night, she relented and gave it all to Jesus. The peace in her persona is undeniable, and is a direct result of surrendering it all to Jesus.
She was one of three students from our group who surrendered it all to Jesus. As I was sitting back, not singing but watching, I saw the look of relief on these students’ faces as they gave Jesus control of their lives. They had heard the soft whisper that Elijah had heard. In the chaos of my own head, I had been trying to listen to the whisper. I’d missed it because I couldn’t get past my own perceived problems. Once I got over and past the self-pity, I began to realize that I don’t have to be able to use my voice to worship God. I don’t have to be able to physically sing to be able to cry out to Him. It’s okay to live vicariously through watching others praise Jesus.
What’s been my takeaway from this whole thing? I’ll be honest with you guys, I’m not convinced that God is done teaching me. I’m not convinced that I’ve really heard the gentle whisper. I’m anxiously awaiting to find out for myself what “life lesson” God is going to teach. I know it’ll happen, but until I know exactly what it is, I’ll keep trying to listen through the noise.
God is Good. He loves us. Sometimes we have to just shut up, grow a nodule on our vocal cord, and listen.
What ways has God used to get your attention and caused you to slow down, give up control, and listen?