So pumped today for you to meet my friend Aubs. She was my roomie for 2 years of college and my faithful marathon buddy. We have been through a ton together, and today she is sharing part of her story.
Aubrey is a 26 year old PhD student studying Old Testament Lit at Emery and is probably smarter than 95% of us will ever be in our whole lifetimes ;o) She is married to a wonderful man named Jeff who is from Australia and still has a sweet accent, and they currently reside in Atlanta with their two Papillion puppies, Grace and Ransom. (Okay, how adorable is she?!)
“When I was a sophomore in college, I knew that I wanted to be a singer. I loved music, I was majoring in voice performance at Wheaton College, and I just knew that this was what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Of course, I was going to succeed in voice “all for the glory of God.” Its funny how much more glory God can get in our absolute FAILURE.
While I was planning and practicing for my sophomore recital (my first big college recital!), I started to lose my voice all the time. I developed a chronic sore throat and instead of getting better, I grew gradually worse and worse. I was so discouraged, and, frankly, embarrassed. I thought being a singer was who I was. But I was failing dismally. My voice teacher tried putting me on vocal rest, “How much are you talking?!” He couldn’t believe how much I would have had to be talking to go from voice major to chain smoker in the course of a short lesson! At the breaking point of frustration that had grown over the year (and after I assured him that I wasn’t that popular ), he referred me to a voice specialist.
The voice specialist informed me that I had a tumor, fortunately benign, on my vocal cords. I would have to have surgery to remove it at the end of the semester, and until then, no more singing. Afterwards I would have to build up from there and just see how it went. My dream of excellence in singing was, very clearly, over.
What do you do when you have reached a limit like this? I couldn’t work harder, invest more effort or time to “push through” this. I was, simply, an artist without an art.
It turns out that that limit was the only way that I could have been halted in my tracks, realize the weakness of being human, and turn around to face God. It was such a small trial, but it taught me that freedom can be found in something so important being taken away, even if at the time I felt like I had failed. I realized that was not the end…so what next?
I found myself with lots of time on my hands. That’s what you get when you’re a voice major without a voice! I turned to the book of Ecclesiastes” ‘What gain does humanity get from all their toil under the sun?” the speaker in the book asks, “who knows what is good for a person?”
In that period where my speech was limited I set out to find the answer to Ecclesiastes’ question. It was that first question that set me on the path to where I am today, still a full-time student of the Bible! And still a full-time student of the lessons that God so graciously taught me as an over-confident college student.
1) We are limited as human beings. Our bodies can fail us, our circumstances can get out of our control. We can put in all that effort to “be all that I can be,” and still be, as Paul says in Romans, “subjected to futility” along with creation (Romans 8:20) BUT
2) Our belief is in one who, though he had no limits, took on all of our limits, in order that we could be redeemed in our failure as much as in our success. This is our mystery, where we are now free to encounter our limits as temporary, we are free to struggle against them in the belief that even the “no’s” are redemptive.
It took my struggle with the small limit of losing my voice for me to be forced to grapple with the nature of a God who embraced all our human limits, even the greatest one, of death. Somehow it was on the other side of that experience where I found a kind of freedom to love my work without a crippling fear of failure. It is a joy, of course, to succeed, but not a need.
So now, maybe we can be free to fail, free to realize our limits, free to realize the weakness of our bodies and our minds, and instead of thinking we have to be excellent for Christ, realize that our failures can be testimonies to his excellence.”