I’m not a fan of puzzles. I mean, what a terrible source of entertainment! If I can see the picture on the outside of the box, why would I willingly waste my time pouring out the pieces, spreading them across the table and then putting them back together JUST to create the same picture that I conveniently saw already? I have a solution for puzzles- it’s called a hammer! I would rather someone else put them together and I’ll enjoy the big picture. I get antsy when I’m stuck in the building phase. I just want it to look like it’s supposed to.
Back in March, I lost my voice. It happened suddenly, right in the middle of leading worship for a youth event. At the time, I thought nothing of it. I pushed through and shrugged it off. I know I don’t sing “correctly” by professional standards, and when I overuse my voice it tends to fade, but it always bounces back. A few days passed and my voice started to return, but it never felt “whole.” Weeks progressed and I began to notice just how quickly (and sporadically) it would fade out. Singing grew difficult and frustrating- even small conversations wore out my throat in a matter of minutes. I don’t normally get embarrassed by much, but going horse at the drop of a hat began to take its toll on my pride. My voice was like a light switch, turning on and off at random; feeling good one moment and disappearing the next.
Fast forward to today. It’s June and I’m still perplexed. I’ve had two very uncomfortable, very expensive appointments with a throat specialist who has been unable to give me any viable solutions. “Perhaps it's allergies,” he said. Sure, I sneeze a bit in the spring, but this is way beyond normal. “Rest your voice,” he recommended, and after weeks of no singing (and very little talking) nothing changed except my growing depression. I’ve run through every protocol- from home remedies to antibiotics. Everyone seems to have the "answers" and yet, nothing has brought back my voice. I can't even attempt to sing without a feeling of dread. The healing isn’t slow… it’s nonexistent! I returned to the specialist a few weeks ago to plead my case. “Help me, Doctor. I lead music at my church. I've put my recording on hold. Singing means the world to me. I need my voice back!” What was his response? “It’s just a little irritation. You have nothing to worry about. Just rest your voice.” I fought the urge to jump up, strangle the man and ask if HE felt “a little irritation.” It’s been almost four months of this. Something is clearly wrong. I live in my own skin. I know when something is out of the ordinary.
Words cannot express how difficult this has been for me. I’m a social being. I answer the phone at work- I greatly value talking with friends and family- I speak a lot in ministry. I can’t walk through life wearing a button that says “I can’t talk. I’m on vocal rest.” It’s discouraging to force my mouth shut when I want to converse. It’s demoralizing to open my mouth and hear how weak my voice still is. It’s defeating to know that every time I utter a word, I may be delaying the healing. I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself. I don’t like the silence in my head. Even my prayers are quiet; executed in thought and not with audible words. Singing is my outlet to worship; my window to God. It breaks my heart to stand in church and mouth along with words that I so desperately want to belt out. My frustration may not be noticeable to those around me. This may seem ridiculous and small. I know there are real problems in this world. I know there are those who truly suffer. Perhaps I sound pathetic, selfish or petty, but in my heart, this is a big ordeal. I feel like a runner who can no longer run; a painter who can no longer see; a chef who can no longer taste. I’m stuck and there’s nothing I can do about it. There are moments when I desperately want to sing out to God and instead, I find myself solemn and upset. I’ve been angry as I wrestle with the Lord. I struggle to understand why He would permit me to lose something that I’ve always used for His glory.
I can see the picture in my mind. It’s the same picture on the "box" of my life. I know what I want it to look like. It’s the image of a man who has his voice back. The pieces just need to fit together like they always have. We live in our own skin and we know when something is out of the ordinary, so perhaps God uses moments like these to get our attention, spiritually. This situation certainly got mine and I’ve been forced to look at this puzzle a little deeper. Maybe God is using this to knock me to pieces. Maybe I need to place more faith in the one who can put me back together again. There’s no hammer this time. I can’t bang things into place with my own will. The pieces are spread out across the table and they don’t make any sense to me, but maybe I’m looking at the wrong picture. I’m still clinging to my own expectations, but there’s no box to follow. I’m not the one to do this job! I have to wait. I hate it! I have to trust. I’m trying! Perhaps that’s what this is all about. It’s been a long time since my faith was shaken. It’s been a long time since my trek was disrupted. Maybe this is my call to attention. Maybe this is my call to trust. It sounds obvious, but we all lose our way.
I read an excerpt from a devotion that recently spoke on trust. Complete trust in God cannot exist where there is also panic. Trust relinquishes control. We must pour our pieces out and believe that our heavenly Father will assume the assembly from there.
What about you? Are you puzzled right now by some circumstance? Is your life in pieces? Are you waiting for the understanding to see some bigger picture? I know it hurts. I know it’s confusing. I know it makes no sense. There’s no quick fix. There’s no hammer. There’s no box to follow. You haven’t seen this picture before, so you can’t possibly know what it’s going to look like and that's scary. Take confidence in His assembly skills. He's done this before. In the face of doubt, faith must take the reins. The pieces will come together- the Father is gathering them now, and this same God who formed you will form you again and again, piece by piece. He sees a perfect picture. He is never, ever far.
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.” Psalm 139: 1-18 (NIV)