As some of you know, I have been struggling over the past few months with my voice. Perhaps you've noticed the slightly-more-than-usual hoarseness or a diminished ability to project vocally. It's been a pronounced struggle since late January that has led to a series of medications and doctor's appointments, culminating in a visit to a voice therapist yesterday morning. While I'm thankful for the gift of modern medicine and the hard work of those who devote their lives to studying the body and how to best care for it, yesterday's appointment was hard and humbling.
It was hard to hear confirmation that something is not right. My vocal therapist was able to tell immediately that something was wrong with my voice. A series of tests confirmed that I am putting extra strain on my vocal cords, even to produce the sounds I am able to make. This has a cumulative effect, making it much more difficult for my vocal cords to heal. She sat down with me and asked a series of questions about how I use my voice and that's when things got even harder. The bottom line is that until my vocal cords recover from whatever damage they've incurred, I need to cut back and create more opportunities for my voice to rest.
The truth is, God has been humbling me through this illness. He's been reminding me that I'm weak, I'm not self-sufficient, and I cannot do this on my own. Now an illness or injury by itself isn't necessarily humbling. But an injury that affects your livelihood is. At least for me. I love to preach God's Word. To borrow from the famous Olympian Eric Liddell, when I preach I feel God's pleasure. Preaching is more than a career, it's a passion. It's something I hope to be doing until I cannot do it any longer. Which means I need to listen to my doctor and make some short-term changes in order to have a long-term ministry preaching and teaching God's Word.
As of right now we don't know exactly how long I'll need to rest my vocal cords or how extensive that rest needs to be. On April 28 my doctor will be performing a minor procedure to visually examine my vocal cords with a camera. That will allow her to assess the damage and make more informed recommendations about what I need to do in the short-term. But until then, the elders have agreed I should make a few changes to ensure I'm not overworking my voice and that my vocal cords will have ample time to rest between public speaking.
So for the next few months I'll be preaching a little less frequently. Although subject to change, the plan now is for me to preach every other week for the next two months. I've also been removed from the rotation for pastoral prayers, someone else will lead the welcome and announcements, and I'll be finding a substitute teacher for my Sunday School class on Sundays when I'm preaching. You may also notice that my sermons are shorter, but don't get too excited because I can always tell the elders to make their pastoral prayers longer to fill the time. My sermons may also be less--how should I say it?--dynamic. Or, as the kids like to say, I won't be yelling at everybody so much. Lord willing, none of these changes will be permanent, but with God's help they will allow my vocal cords to heal.
As hard and humbling as this experience has been, it's also hopeful (you can credit Holly for helping me come up with a third 'h'). When I shared the news with some of my pastor friends, one of them who had himself gone through vocal therapy shared this with me: "That vocal therapy should be tremendous, it should help you preach for the next 50 years as often as you want, as hard as you want, as intensely as you want." That is my hope and prayer. But even more than that, I am hopeful that God will turn this for good (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). If God is sovereign over the vocal cords of a donkey, He's sovereign over my vocal cords too. But He's not just sovereign, He's good. He is strong and kind. And I truly believe (even in the moments when part of me doesn't want to) that He is not pushing me away in this affliction. He's drawing me near to Himself.
Lord willing, I'll be preaching tonight at our 6:30 Good Friday service and again on Resurrection Sunday. After that, I'll begin sharing the pulpit every other week until we have a bit more clarity on what we're dealing with. During that time, will you commit to praying for me and my healing? More importantly, will you commit to pray that the Father will use this for good in the life of His church?
Praying By Your Side,