I love words. With words we tell stories. We sing songs. And they can do so much more than convey information. They are mysterious in how they go out far beyond the ears of those who hear them. I love turning a phrase, the long pause searching for the right word, and even the most groan inducing pun.
My life is lived through words. I read the Word of God, spending hours pondering words both human and divine. And I preach the word of God. I use my reason and my person to try to tell people what that great Word says. I tell stories to make His Story come alive. I love to preach. I love to sit with people and counsel the hurting and give wisdom to the seeking.
And then one day the words couldn’t be heard. Almost a year ago I got the Coronavirus. The virus threatened my life, but I survived. Once my body had regained its strength, I found that I had lost my voice. I thought it would just go away. Like it was some lingering symptom. As the months went on, I realized something was really wrong. In the middle of sentences my words would turn to air. Sundays became difficult. By the end of the day my eyes would water at the fire in my throat. I began not talking on Saturdays to get as much strength as possible, and then spending Monday letting the vocal cords heal all day.
The doctor showed me that the virus had caused some damage to my vocal cords. I had two options; therapy or surgery. I choose therapy. Because a knife near my voice was something I didn’t want to chance.
The therapy was immediately beneficial. I learned how to make sound come from within the chest instead of the throat. Turns out I have been pushing sound through my throat for years. I am not a singer or an actor, so I never learned the correct way to project. My way worked, but I had trained the muscles of my throat to completely tense up. The muscles were actually restricting airflow and working against speech. So I had these messed up throat muscles and these crazy red lumps on my vocal cord.
The pain went away. I would come home Sunday with dry eyes. I would feel the throat getting tired, but it wasn’t on fire anymore. But as the therapy continued, the gravel did not go away. My voice sounded different. I would still lose sound in the middle of words. And worse then all that… I couldn’t sing anymore. I would drive around and a song would fill my heart, and I couldn’t let it out. I couldn’t sing over my children as I laid them to sleep. I came to church every week and would say the words in my head, unable to sing them out in praise. As time went on, I got afraid.
Finally the day came when the therapist told me we had reached the end of our work together. There was nothing more she could do. It was time to turn to the knife. Surgery was now the only option. The Sunday before my consult was an awful Sunday for my voice. I couldn’t preach. Not at all. I would try to push and the sound kept turning off.
Surgery would mean no talking. After they cut this nodule thing off my vocal cord, I would be unable to say a word for 1-3 weeks. It depends on how deep into the cord they had to cut. And all this was happening as God was opening the door for a brand new church plant on the East Side of the city. How could I preach a new pulpit if I couldn’t preach?! What if my voice was always this weak? What if the volume never came back? What if I lost all vocal endurance? As the consult came closer, I began to realize that this surgery could change my entire life. What would I do if I couldn’t preach anymore? It took some wrestling on Gethsamane, but I finally came to peace with the surgery. Whatever happened, His grace would be sufficient.
I walked into the throat doctor two days before the new church launched. I had been running so hard I didn’t have time to stress about the consult. I would be afraid when the surgery was scheduled. For now they would just put this camera down my nose and figure out how bad this surgery was going to be.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the doc. The day I walked into their office marked three weeks of no trouble. After that awful Sunday it just started working. I kept waiting for the bad to come back, and it never did. I assumed I was just having a really long good day.
I sat in the chair. I gripped the arms in anticipation. They put the camera up my nose and down my throat. There was a trainee doc there watching and taking notes. She saw me grab ahold of the armrests and looked concerned. I told her that I was a dramatic person and everything was okay.
They began talking their super secret doctor code, taking pics and pointing out the screen. Then they pulled the camera out and spun me around. I steadied myself for the news. How bad was this gonna be, I did not know.
“It’s all gone Mr. Alaniz.”
I didn’t understand.
She pulled up the before said after. On the right I could see the damage. And on the left I saw a completely clean and healthy pair of vocal cords.
“The therapy worked. You don’t need surgery. You can go ahead and pay up front, and you are done here.”
I walked out of the office in a haze. I paid my bill and then climbed up into the big old ghetto church truck. And I began to cry out to God in prayer. For I knew that therapy had not given me a voice. The therapy touched my muscles and took away the pain of pushing. But my voice got worse during that time, not better. For 8 months I did therapy every day and every day my voice squeaked and fell.
Angie told me that on my day of great struggle she prayed for my voice. And she told me later that after that season of prayer she knew i was going to be healed and would not need surgery.
God healed my voice. And I am so thankful.
Thank you for everyone who has prayed of us during this last year. My voice is back. I even sang at church last Sunday. And it was good.
Did you know that Pastor Ernesto wrote a book? Click the button and grab a copy!