By Mike Glenn
Twenty years ago, I lost my voice. I woke up one morning with a sore throat. No big deal. If you live in Middle Tennessee, you wake up with a sore throat on most days. Whether it’s a seasonal cold, hay fever, or allergies and the resulting sinus drainage, we’re either coughing, sneezing, or stopped up. It’s going to be one of them. It just depends on the season. So, thinking it was just the normal stuff, I kept plowing through my regular schedule. I preached most Sundays. I taught several times a week. I would cough, make a joke about allergies, and keep on going.
Then, I lost my voice.
I woke up one morning and I couldn’t talk. My throat wasn’t just sore. It hurt. Whenever I tried to speak, it felt like someone was piercing my throat with an ice pick. The pain was so sharp and deep that it would bring tears to my eyes. Obviously, if you make your living by talking, this isn’t a good thing.
My wife is a nurse and she always knows what to do. So, I did what she said. I stayed at home. I gargled with salt water. I took my allergy medicine and I drank plenty of water. After one day, it wasn’t better. After two days, it wasn’t better. By the third day, I was getting close to a full-blown panic attack. I was supposed to be better, but I wasn’t better. In fact, I may have been worse.
I finally ended up in the office of the best voice doctor in Nashville. The doctor’s office was covered with pictures of famous singers and actors who had autographed their headshots and written glowing words of praise to the doctor for saving their careers. (For some reason, the doctor didn’t ask for my headshot. I guess the doctor didn’t want to spend a lot of time having to answer the question, “Who’s he?”)
So, here was the treatment: six weeks of total voice rest. Total. No humming. No whispering. No screaming out in pain when you stub your toe. Nothing. Nada. For six weeks. I had a granuloma on my vocal cords. With rest, it might get better. If it didn’t, then surgery would be required.
A granuloma is a thickening of the vocal cord. With overuse or misuse, the tissue grows thicker to protect itself. Think of a callus on your hand or the thickening skin on your heel. If you rub something too long, it grows a callus. My vocal cords had been abused. I hadn’t taken care of my voice and now, I had lost my voice.
And I was scared out of my mind.
What was I going to do if I couldn’t speak? What good is a preacher who can’t talk? The doctor thought things would be OK in a few weeks, but he had solemnly warned me that things may not ever get back to normal. Then he said something I thought was curious. He said, "Speaking is a secondary function." That means that talking isn’t necessary to live. We have to breathe. Our hearts have to beat, but we don’t have to speak. That means if speaking gets in the way of living, your body will simply stop speaking.
I tried to explain to the doctor that I HAD to speak. I couldn’t live without speaking. He didn’t see it that way. No one else did either.
Well, as you can imagine, I didn’t sleep well during that time. I got up at night a lot. I walked around the house and wondered how I would take care of my family. What would I do if I couldn’t speak?
One night when I couldn’t sleep, I walked into my study and began to write in my journal. The first sentence I wrote was, “What will I do for You if I can’t preach?”
The next sentence I wrote was the answer. “Then, you’ll find another way to praise Me.” True, I may not be able to continue being a pastor, but that doesn’t change the ultimate reality that holds up all other reality – that God is still God. That doesn’t change with my circumstances or whatever situation I may be in. God is still God.
We always think we praise God for what He’s done. Nope. That’s thanksgiving. Praise is acknowledging God for who He is. We can praise God and, in fact, we MUST praise God wherever we are. To praise God is to defiantly declare the unchanging, bedrock truth of our faith. God is still God and God alone is God.
That doesn’t change if we can’t talk.
That doesn’t change if we’re in a fiery furnace or the lion’s den.
It doesn’t change if we’re in a Philippian jail.
I may not be able to preach, speak, or sing, but I can bang a drum, wave a banner, or clap my hands.
God is still God and that alone is worthy of praise.
I remember this story every time I step into the pulpit. Preaching is a privilege. I’ll never take it for granted again. Yet, if there ever comes another time when I can’t preach, I’ll find another way to praise Him. The best thing about today – the best thing about every day – is that God is still God.
And, what happened to the granuloma? Resolved, or removed?