“There's a lot of character shaping that goes on when life hands you broken pieces,” Dove Award-winning Christian singer/songwriter Matthew West says. “Through this and other experiences, I know my life purpose is to display my wealth of weakness, and to reflect his power.”
West was reflecting on summer 2007, when he had surgery to repair damaged vocal cords and he called on God for help. As with any surgery, there was no guarantee the vascular polyp and hemorrhaged blood vessels on his vocal cord would heal.
Still, West, whose song “More” was the most played Christian Adult Contemporary (AC) song of 2004, chose to have the surgery, hoping he would someday be able to resume his singing career as one of contemporary Christian music's newest stars.
He has returned to singing, and he will perform Friday night at First Assembly of God Christian Center on Washington Center Road.
After his vocal cord surgery, West said the two-month period following it became a challenge because he was not allowed to sing or even talk to his family in order for healing to take place.
A singer not allowed to perform in concert? A husband who couldn't say “I love you” to his wife? A father forbidden to sing his baby daughter to sleep? As the days passed, West found himself frustrated and questioning God's plan.
Yet, at the same time, that period became for West one of the tantamount periods of growth in his Christian faith.
West had come to Christian music after he taught himself how to play guitar and write music while attending Milliken College in Decatur, Ill., where he was a music major. During that time, West developed a following, creating his own posters for advertising and booking himself at churches.
After graduation, West's song-writing talents caught the attention of record companies in Nashville, Tenn., resulting in West making contributions to tunes for Mandisa, Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus and Natalie Grant.
“It's been exciting sharing in the careers of many recording artists as well as my own albums,” said West recently during a phone interview from his home in Nashville.
His own studio recordings, “Happy” (2003) and “History” (2005), included tunes played by Christian radio, such as “Only Grace,” “History” and “Next Thing You Know.”
By April of 2007, West had written songs for his newest album on Sparrow Records. Studio and concert dates were scheduled.
Then, West lost his voice. The name of his next album was, ironically, “Something To Say.”
Looking back at that time a year ago when he didn't know if his career as a singer was over, West reflects, “I was forced to think about maybe not singing again. I'm not a single guy with no responsibilities. I had a family to think about. So I made a list of other skills I had. That's when I got really scared. It was a short list.”
But West says he had always been a determined person, and he refused to give up.
“I had faith it would work out,” he recalls. “I also repeated the words to the Bible verse in Philippians 4:13 that say: ‘You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.' I told myself I could make it through this surgery, therapy, whatever, because I am promised strength beyond my own from God.”
West says he is completely healed and ready to embark on a 25-city tour for “Something to Say,” which was recorded after West's recovery and released in January. West was the best-selling Christian artist on iTunes the week of its release.
West says he plans to focus the concerts on what he's learned during his illness.
“I have a different perspective of what defines us now,” he says. “So many times I thought success was putting my best foot forward. Now it's important to me to get up on stage and communicate that I don't have it all together. But God is showing me my purpose.”