Recently I finished reading a gem of a book by Shauna Niequist titled I Guess I haven’t Learned That Yet. Being a fan of her work, I’m convinced that if I lived in her Manhattan apartment building we would be friends. Both of us are enneagram 7s (the Enneagram is a method of describing personalities by how people see the world and navigate emotions). We share the same love for Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies and the Inspector Gamache book series. We love gathering people for a good meal and can stay up chatting with family and friends into the early hours of the morning. We’ve also experienced disappointments and loss in life and ministry; the kind that leaves deep hurts and can cause you to question your calling.
A little over two years ago I had a traumatic injury during a thyroidectomy that paralyzed my left vocal cord. My passion was theatre and leading worship through music. My singing voice was the primary way I related to the world and how I expressed my worship of God. A month post-surgery, I sounded like I had laryngitis, and after a follow-up with my doctor, I learned that it would be a year before we would know if I would get my speaking voice back, let alone be able to sing. It was rough. My husband was a trooper as I faced the loss of my identity and calling.
During the first Christmas post-surgery I experienced a small death. I sat quietly while the voices around me sang all my favorite Christmas carols. I missed singing the harmonies with my family. I felt further distance as we experienced worship services sitting around a computer. As we headed into Lent, I faced another small death. I longed to lead the Holden Evening Prayer with my brother but spent another season silently sitting in front of a screen.
As we headed into the season of Ordinary Time in 2021, my church was meeting again in person. On those first few Sundays I felt a sense of dread. What did I have to give to God if I had no voice to join in with the congregation in worship? Would I ever experience an intimate time of worship without singing? I quietly wept through those first few weeks.
A month or so in, something changed. I found myself looking up during worship. I scanned the stained glass windows looking for particular images connecting them to various parts of the liturgy. I recognized certain voices and learned which parts of the service people resonated with more than another. While my voice couldn’t soar with the notes on the page, my spirit soared on the voices of my fellow congregants.
During that season, I experienced a renewed understanding of the liturgy. Because I didn’t worry about whether or not the notes I sang were correct, I focused on the language. I found a deep sense of what it means to worship as a community in community. I leaned heavily upon the people around me to do the outward display of worship. Their faithfulness in participating in worship enabled the work of the Holy Spirit to do the inner healing my heart so needed during my grief. In that, I also found a renewed sense of calling to serve the church.
A quote from Shauna’s book speaks true of that time in my life and where I’ve been since then, “I don’t know when the dawn will break, for you or for me, but I know that the healing comes in the trying and that even in the dark we have to keep practicing our callings, whatever they are. We have to keep doing the things we were made to do, the daily acts of goodness and creativity and honesty and service–as much for what they bring about inside us as for the good they do in the world. Those two things work together, and they both matter.”
You never know how your acts of worship in and outside of church affect those around you. You may be the voice for someone who can’t speak. You may have the smile that brightens someone’s day, the skill to fix a much needed car, or the cash to help pay a bill. Continue to do those things unto which you are called, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through you in acts of worship. You may run into someone like me who needs to remember that the worship of God happens through so much more than singing.
Amy Weinkauf, Administrative Coordinator