Monday, November 4, 2013

Hearing Difficulties

 One of the few real memories I l have from my early childhood is of my mom constantly yelling at me because she told me to do something and I hadn’t yet done it. Honestly, I didn’t hear her say it—that’s why I didn’t do it. Now if you’re a parent or have any kind of close relationship with a 7-8 year old child, the first words that probably came to your mind were “selective hearing.” After all, children and husbands are famous for that! You can’t blame my mother for thinking the very same thing. It frustrated her to no end to tell me to get my shoes on and find out 15 minutes later, as she is toting her purse, the diaper bag, and my very energetic toddler brother, that I never moved from the couch and had no idea where my shoes were.

After many, many months (she really was a very patient woman) of hearing over and over again, “I never heard you say…” Mom took me a specialist to get my ears check. Mostly out of concern, but there was a small part of her just waiting to prove her “selective hearing” theory. What we found out was that I was in fact losing my hearing due to scar tissue from numerous past ear infections and constant fluid in my ears because they don’t drain properly. Poor mom. Here she was secretly sure the doctor was going to confirm her theory and hearing that she was in fact wrong. He told her that if she had waited another month or two, that I would have been deaf for life. They put two ear tubes in each ear and a few months later and I was hearing a lot better. I still have some hearing loss, but now I say to mom, “I hear sound coming from your mouth, I just can’t distinguish the words.”  That’s usually when we’re in a noisy room and I can’t see her mouth to connect the sound to the sight of the words forming on her lips. To complicate my hearing difficulties, I also suffer from tinnitus.
One of the things I’m learning during this prayer challenge is how much this physical hearing issue I’ve had to deal with all my life is like my prayer life these last several years. I prayed. I tried to hear God’s voice and sometimes I have. But more and more these last few years, as God became more silent, I gave up trying. That’s how my hearing difficulty seemed to me as a child all those years ago—like mom was getting more and more silent. She stopped calling to me. I would have gone to get my shoes and put them on if she had said something…but she didn’t. Because (and here’s some logic for you) if she had, I would have heard it!
But these last few weeks, I have been realizing that pray is more like how I deal with my hearing difficulties today. I know Mom is talking to me. I hear the evidence of sound and when I don’t, I don’t assume that she didn’t say what she said she said (say that three times fast). Sometimes I have to put all of my concentration on hearing the sounds that come from her mouth as I read her lips and body language—especially when there is a lot of noise around us and if it’s too noisy, I just smile and enjoy her company until we get somewhere I can hear her words again. Because of the tinnitus, there is always some level of noise I have to ignore and listen past and it’s become easier with practice. I’ve found that I only really hear it now when I let myself think about it.

I know that God is talking to me. The peace in my heart, even in the silence is evidence of it. So I will no longer assume he isn’t talking. I just need to learn to hear him as I learned to hear my mom. I will need to concentrate on the sound of his voice as I see the words of his mouth (found in the Bible) and see the expression of his sentiment in his body (pray with and seek advice from my trusted brothers and sisters in Christ) to understand what he is saying to me. Like with the tinnitus, I have to ignore my own selfishness and sinfulness and listen past them to hear God’s voice. And sometimes the world around me is so noisy with temptation and tragedy—I might hear God’s voice but his words will remain unclear and that’s okay. In those moments, I can lean into him and, amidst the temporary chaos, relax as I simply enjoy the pleasure of his company.

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