I’ve been on near-total vocal rest the past four days. Last Sunday, I fought a cough and cold that threatened to escalate into a full-blown sore throat, and, well, after all the talking I did manning the Information Booth at the Philippine church where I work, well, Monday just knocked me flat off my feet. I decided to go on full vocal rest from that day on, so until today, I’ve been pretty faithful in not talking. (Well, save for a brief conversation I had with my boss yesterday; she told me to stay home another day because I sounded awful. Thanks, Ms Mae!)
Frankly, I hate vocal rest. I hate not talking. I hate not being able to sing along with Nathan, or the praise and worship songs I listen to. I hate not being able to converse with my wife. I hate not being able to shout at the television screen at reality television participants who do silly things, or even just to reply to Nicki when she coos at me. I hate not being able to take calls, whether it’s from my boss, or my mom, or my Philippine makeup artist friend Hazel. It’s absolute horror for someone like me.
Luke 1:5-79 tells the story of Zechariah, a priest belonging to the father of Abijah. One day, while he was offering incense in the Temple, the angel Gabriel showed up and told him that his barren wife Elizabeth, would give birth to a son; Gabriel added that the child’s name would be John. Zechariah, who was, by then, an old man, did not believe Gabriel, and was then struck mute as a result of his disbelief, unable to speak until John was born. Zechariah remained mute until his wife Elizabeth gave birth to their son, and was unable to speak until John’s circumcision day, when he wrote “His name is John” on a writing tablet. He was then able to speak, and he praised God.
Worship leaders – and by worship leaders, I’m referring to church leaders in general – so often use their voices that when their vocal cords fail – and they are bound to every so often – it can become extremely difficult to just “be.” We’re not used to the quiet, and it’s a discomfiting situation. I talk all the time, even during my ironically titled “quiet time,” and so, in moments like these, the silence can be a great opportunity for God to teach us something. If God tries to tell us something, and we’re just going on and on, blah blah blah, well, I wouldn’t put it past Him to strike us quiet so we can finally listen to Him. “Ssssssh!,” I imagine Him saying, “I’m trying to make life easier for you.”
I confess the past two weeks have found me basically operating a lot on my own strength, working on my job simply because I had to. Between the anticipation of joining the Greenhills church and the desire to remain fully focused on my current job at the church in the Philippines for which I work, I disregarded a lot of common sense and talked on and on and on throughout the week. My main prayer item was that God would send someone to replace me, and, well, I guess I got insufferable.
Zechariah was struck mute because he disbelieved. I believe God struck me quiet so that I would be forced to listen. I’ve been at home virtually the entire week struggling with the sore throat, cough, and colds – although no sore muscles, fever, or fatigue, so I doubt this is a flu – and during this time, I should’ve paid attention to Him and sought Him. I didn’t. Instead, I worked from home, and focused on Nathan’s birthday, and basically disregarded the opportunities for quiet time He gave me. The time when I could’ve reconnected, I didn’t. It was only this afternoon, when the Holy Spirit nudged me to read up about Zechariah’s being struck mute, that I listened enough to God’s rebuke. My loving boss, Ms Mae, told me to stay home another day tomorrow so I can be totally ready for Sunday’s work, and believe me, I am going to connect to God tomorrow morning, as in the whole morning. That’s the plan.
Vocal rest can be quite annoying, but I do realize the blessing in disguise that it is. It may’ve taken me four days to realize it, but I’m glad I’m there. Thank You, God, for this extended Sabbath; I promise that You and I will have that chat tomorrow, and it will be You who will do all the talking, I promise.