Posted on: May 6th, 2016
It started on a Wednesday night. The slight tickle in the throat after a rehearsal. Driving home that night I thought that I would need to do no more than the usual precautionary measures. Throat coat tea. Echinacea. Ginger. And maybe a hot toddy. An unsuspectiing sniffle here and there but nothing my trusty Vicks Vapor rub and a good hour of cycling cardio couldn't handle. Boy, was I wrong. By the next night, I could feel my throat starting to close up and mucus seemed to rise from the ashes of their herbal-remedied-to death prison. Still I persevered and kept two more of my singing engagements that week.
A jazz performance I had been looking forward to all month was that Saturday. So I thought, I'll doctor up, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Only, the thing is, when you have a child under a year old, REST is one thing you don't get. It is like looking at the sandy beaches of the islands from a television screen. So close, but so far away. By Friday night, my immune system had been severely compromised as fever and headache began to set in. Alright, I thought, time for more aggressive measures. It was time for intense Vitamnin C intake, black elderberry syrup, zinc and lots of probiotics. I threw everything I had at this thing except the kitchen sink and even that wouldn't have helped. When I awoke Saturday morning, I could hardly talk. I thought to myself, I'll get better by tonight, I'm gonna beat this thing but after just an hour or so of being awake, I was coughing and expectorating so much that I thought all the phlegm of all the people in all the world decided to reside in my throat and chest. I was devastated. I reluctantly called my band leader, to the point to tears telling him I could not perform that night.
I have never had to back out of a show before. In my line of work, you find that you must build a reputation to be taken seriously. And once that happens people know that they can depend on you. For the first time, it felt like I was finally making strides in my profession----my calling. I released my first recording of original songs, I have shows lined up and I perform on a weekly basis to help stay current. And now this. It's as if I were snapped 10 feet back by having to withdraw from a performance to which I was committed . In a day and age where people make promises they don't intend to keep, or treat their obligations with flippancy, I strive to be a person of my word. I am not perfect in this but my heart and actions move in that direction. I called all my performance mates and apologized to them for not being able to perform. They were most gracious but I couldn't help but feel as though I was letting my team mates down. As if the last free throw shot was given to me to win the game and the ball slips ever so slightly out of the net.
Soon, I could hear my own condemning thoughts: "Well, that's it for you, no one will ever want to work with you again". And one after the other, self-condemnation poured through like a river. I hated myself for letting others down who were counting on me to do my part. I felt like a failure. I felt worthless. Then, as if a fiery arrow was shot through piercing darkness, I remembered the words to a song I have come to love. Keith and Kristyn Getty co-wrote the song "My Worth Is Not in What I Own" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfFrJHuptUQ). Despite the fact that I could hardly speak let alone hum a tune, my mind played the words over and over. One line in particular stood out at the time I was feeling so diminished:
My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross
At precisely the moment where I would have given in to fear and self-condemnation, God brought to mind that my value is not in anything I do. As a performer, especially in our culture, you are only as good as the next person who is better than you. With everyone trying to amaze and captivate their audience, it can feel like a never-ending series of living and dying by applause, feel valued only because of your talent or skill. In a moment, such as the one I experienced, I began to doubt the value of my life at all. As it is with me, music is one of the primary ways I hear God speaking. As I lay sick in bed that Saturday, watching the hours go by, lethargic and terribly sick, I remembered that I had value. I could do nothing. I couldn't heal quickly enough to turn everything around that night but my anxious heart was quieted by the words of a song. My little one, depending on me for care, could not understand my slowed pace in the days that followed.
And so here it is, seven days later and I am finally staring to feel better. I had been hit so aggressively that upon being diagnosed, I was made aware that I had laryngitis and was prompty but on antibiotics. This certainly was a first for me. I haven't been able to sing all week and for the first time since being sick, I could sing a few lines with some clarity and without severe coughing. In all this, there was a valuable lesson. Who I am, my worth and my place in this world are already fixed in God's eyes. Jesus paid for my redemption with His blood. I think I am valued very much. Too often we put value on one another according to what we can produce. Do the crippled, blind, lame and sickly have value? Of course, they do. As do all of us who have our faculties in full operation. What I didn't realize then that I recognize now is that despite my inability to perform, I am still dearly loved, fought for and cherished. God values me if no one else does. And I don't have to sing a note to prove my worth. It is from this place freedom comes. Abiding in unconditional, pure love. And when I sing from that place, I sing in freedom, unaffected by societal and cultural expectations. And it is then that I really sing.
© 2017 Anakai Ney - Singer Songwriter.