In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. — Isaiah 30:15 ESV
This is a vocal emergency,” Dr. Gupta told me, her tone dead serious as the morning sun glared through her office blinds. “You have done severe damage to your vocal cords. You cannot speak for the next thirty-five days.”
I sat there dazed, waiting to wake up, feeling for sure that I was stuck in some terrible dream. My voice was my life. And now the doctor was saying I might possibly lose it all. The only thing I could think was, Seriously? Now? How in the world could this happen to me?
But just that quick, I realized. Because you are constantly running in the red, Anthony. That’s how.
We were raised to believe in the power of hard work, and really, that’s the way I live best. Busy. For me, hard work means getting on a plane every three or four days (and actually three or four planes due to layovers), multiple events, never being home, booking studio time on those precious few days when I am home, singing and pushing and doing all the small stuff it takes to keep your career above water.
Some people think it’s all glamour and spotlight, but what they don’t understand is the lines are blurry. Work rarely stops. You don’t clock in at nine and out at five. You work all day and then you work all night. You work all the time.
Because if you do have an artistic career and you sleep at the wheel for one minute? Pretty soon you don’t have a career anymore. At some point your body breaks down and you start get- ting sick. But there’s no time to get sick. There’s always a concert scheduled, an event booked, always someone needing a piece of your time. And you understand that going in. It’s part of the price you pay.
I’d been singing on the road and singing back home, too, doing live shows and cutting vocals for various projects around LA. Never say no. Keep pushing. That’s the way.
On a recent weekend, I had four ministry events scheduled in two and a half days. Especially in worship, you want to give your all. You can’t just phone it in. You’re not singing about romance or cars. You are singing to the Most High God. You don’t hold anything back.
So, I pushed through sick to sing and ended up bruising my vocal cords. The laryngologist said the only way to heal my voice was through rest. No quick-fix medications or exercises or procedures. Only rest. And in my case, more than a solid month of it.
Injury is the rest you are forced into when you fail to observe the value of rest. And it’s always ill-timed and inconvenient.
No singing. No talking. Do you know how much I talk on a daily basis? Not only could I not do the things that earned my living, I couldn’t do much of anything. I had to cancel performances, cancel plans. Cancel a show in Hawaii! I sat in my apartment, lonely and bored, waiting for the verdict on my voice.
After further tests and scopes, Dr. Gupta informed me that I was prone to injury due to capillaries in my vocal cords that easily rupture. If I kept pushing, it could permanently damage my voice. If I wanted to continue singing professionally, she suggested laser surgery to repair the capillaries along with major changes to my daily schedule.
I was like, Wait, did you just say surgery? You want to do an operation on my throat?
In fact, this news from Dr. Gupta came right before I received this book deal. As I work on this book titled Unexpected Places, I find myself in an unexpected place, totally shut down and stuck on the sidelines as my friends in music speed by, continuing to tour and do what they were called to do. Like I mentioned earlier, I am still a big attention-deficit kid. I would never be able to sit still long enough, to go deep enough to write the stories of my life unless… I was forced to sit in silence. Unless I couldn’t do anything but sit at my laptop and write. Truly, the Lord works in mysterious ways.
Back when I was growing up in Dallas, Highway 75 North was only four lanes, and it was always slow and packed with traffic. One day the city announced they were expanding 75 from four lanes to eight. But in order to expand, first they had to shut it down.
It was more than annoying for a while, but the end result was a highway that could handle the city’s growth. That’s my hope: that God had to shut me down to expand my capacity and prepare me for a new season of growth, whether it’s in my career or my spirit or both. That’s what I pray as I sit alone in my living room while my mind fights anxious thoughts.
In the Bible, wisdom and revelation often come from places of silence and rest. God rested from His work. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to be still. Why do we not value rest? Especially in ministry? Why do we always think more is better? The power isn’t always in pushing through. Sometimes it’s in the rest.
“When you recover from this injury, you are going to have to readjust the way you do work and life,” Dr. Gupta warned. “You will have to redefine what normal is for you.”
One cool thing about God is He shows us so much about life through circumstances. Even bad ones. Especially the bad ones. That’s what the Word means by “everything works together for the good.” Good and bad — both teach us.
The lesson wasn’t just about how to take care of my voice. When the doctor talked about my bruised vocal cords, I thought about how there were parts of my spirit that had been damaged too. Life leaves bruises. There are places where you become prone to injury from multiple breaks. Spots that are callused over to protect from further pain.
If you create a callus on your vocal cord, it changes the sound of your voice. It could possibly ruin your voice. There were places in my heart that had been changed from trying to push through. From failing to honor rest, from trying to follow the expected path instead of finding God’s right way for me.
Ministry and Christian living are not solely about achievement. It’s not all about getting to the mountaintop with our hands in the air or how many people we can corral into church. Sometimes ministry can be more about creating places of push than a place of rest. Maybe that’s why so many get hurt.
I thought about that time in the Bible where Jesus visited Martha and Mary. One of my Bibles says Martha was “the jittery type.” I can relate! Mary was just hanging out and listening to Jesus, and Martha complained because there was so much work to do. Jesus told her to quit worrying about the details so much.
Only one thing truly matters. Get close to God.
With twelve days left of forced silence, things were getting better, but I was still restless. I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to my favorite little place where I can sit, stare at the ocean, and talk to God. Except I couldn’t talk. So, I had to listen. And as the sun dipped over the horizon and the waves crashed against the shore, my mind finally began to be still.
Excerpted with permission from Unexpected Places by Anthony Evans, copyright Anthony Evans.
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Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. — Matthew 11:28-30
Have you been burning the wick at both ends? Are you taking time to be quiet with the Lord, or are you maybe headed for forced rest by injury or illness? That’s always ill-timed and inconvenient, so take a break! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily