Kate’s Story: Once upon a time my larynx felt glued to the ground like a Manolo Blahnik stiletto stuck to pavement. You know how chewing gum sticks to your shoe and won’t come off? A stuck larynx means singers can’t sing. My good Father allowed my voice to die, or become paralyzed, or succumb to a laryngeal nerve virus. Whatever the cause, He allowed it. The day I graduated with my Doctorate of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance, I couldn’t sing a simple freshman aria if my life depended on it. How would I even earn a living? I fought imposter syndrome around other singers in my profession because of an invisible and unexplainable injury.
At one point, I stood in front of the mirror watching my larynx as I sang. It wouldn’t budge. I lifted it into place with the tip of my finger just to sing a short scale. In the academic world, professionals don’t get hired when they can only sing five pitches. The cost of those Blahnik stilettos didn’t come close to the money invested in my music education. My training felt wasted, but God had a plan. I taught private lessons from church and home, witnessing to teenagers and adults about the sustaining love of Christ whenever I had a chance.
In the meantime, I could not get over my feelings of devastation. Singing helped me survive my dad’s battle with cancer. It comforted me through my mother’s suffering and death due to Bulbar ALS. Singing was a solace in my singleness. By this time, I lived 20 hours away from my family and felt so alone. I wondered if I would ever feel normal again.
I could not bring myself to say that I loved God anyway, or to praise Him or give Him glory for the trial. I did not cry on His invisible shoulder saying, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). I screamed with what little voice remained and cried ugly tears.
The hero of my story is Jesus. Every time I stood at the piano and risked real damage to my voice trying to make it work, Jesus stood by. My hoarse screams and violent crying never scared Him away. When I crumpled to the floor between the wall and my piano, He crumpled down beside me. Our relationship grew deeper. I begged Him to explain the loss. While I buried my face in His hands, His silence told me He would never leave my side.
I worked hard for my doctoral degree, but it belonged to God, not me. I learned God never devastates His children. He does, however, remove our pride for His glory. In 1 Samuel 1, I read about Hannah, who was devastated by her barrenness. When she finally received the child she always wanted, humility enabled her to give baby Samuel back to God. Hannah recognized the source of her blessing, but I didn’t make that connection as easily.
Swallowing the reality pill of my broken voice took time. Meanwhile, God provided more jobs in the arts world that actually boosted my resume instead of wrecking it. In my valley of vocal distress, those non-academic experiences brought joy, new friends and valuable time to grow closer to Jesus. God mercifully provided, showing me He had not left my side.
Since my salvation at 17, I had made a habit of watching worship leaders. They often sang with abandon, revealing their intimacy with Christ. I knew He had saved me, but I had performed instead of worshipping. In the darkness of my lost voice, I found God to be my Husband, Father and Confidant. I learned to tell Him my deepest, darkest secrets and receive His counsel. We talked for hours in the car and over dinner.
My voice slowly returned as I changed career direction. Instead of advising students and planning senior recitals, I played instruments on the floor with little children. More healing came. The children and I danced together with big leaps and turns and bends and laughter, acting silly. He helped me shed more pride.
Today I believe God allowed my loss to heal my soul. My voice returned, but it was no longer my idol. He fulfills me wholly. I gained more than I lost. My voice works now. My stiletto no longer sticks to the pavement. The hero of my story is Jesus.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6