I had an impactful experience recently that I’d like to share.
I’ve had a hearing problem since I was a boy and had a disagreement with a calf on the family farm; I wanted to ride him, and he disagreed. I landed on the right side of my head and heard something pop. That ear has been significantly impaired since then.
In recent years, with aging, the other ear has been declining as well. This summer I decided to get hearing aids, and I’ve been delighted with the experience; I should have done that long ago.
Six weeks later, one morning I woke up deaf. The “bad ear” was its normal self, but the “good ear” was just gone; it was now by far the “bad ear.” (I came to that realization when I flushed the toilet and heard absolutely nothing.)
Popped in the hearing aids—I’m glad I had them to fall back on—and found that when I cranked them all the way up, I could hear juuuust a little bit.
This was the first day of meetings for the returning faculty to start the school year, and I really needed to be able to hear at least some of what was going on. Made it a matter of prayer and headed off to work.
I managed to get through the day hearing enough to fulfill my responsibilities, but any of you with hearing aids knows that having them turned all the way up means that all the ambient noise is screaming inside your head all day, so it was fairly unpleasant. In fact, a colleague took me aside at one point and asked if I was feeling OK. I was surprised that my distress was noticeable and tried to make it less so for the rest of the day. :-\
That night I tinkered around with possible solutions, to no apparent effect, and went to bed.
Next morning, still deaf.
I did my usual personal devotional time, and in my prayer time I asked the Lord, if he was willing, to clear up the problem. I presented him with a couple of reasons why I thought my being able to hear would be better than the current situation—
- I teach the Bible to Christian students, and they seem to benefit from it, and hearing their questions enables me to teach more effectively.
- In times of worship, I’m much more inclined to rejoice when I hear the congregational singing of my church family—even though, truthfully, I don’t contribute much musical quality to it.
So I asked him to intervene.
I thought for a minute, and I told him something else.
“Father, if you don’t enable me to hear ever again, I’m going to serve you the best I can, without complaint. You have been unfailingly good to me for 60 years as a believer, and for several years before that. I trust you, and I will still trust you and serve you for every tomorrow. I’m with you.
No matter what.”
And I meant it.
That was a deeply significant moment.
I finished my devotional procedure and then, as was my custom, I took a shower. And during the shower, my hearing came back. I don’t want to get all TMI here—the queasy can look away—but the problem was a simple mechanical blockage by earwax.
So it was really no significant problem at all.
But I didn’t know that when I was praying, and I meant what I said. I will always remember the volitional significance of that experience.
And here’s what occurred to me then.
It was my ignorance that made the moment powerful. If I had known that this was just wax, and that the (completely nonsupernatural) solution was just moments away, I would never have faced the opportunity to make that significant choice.
God could have taught me that lesson by making me really deaf for the rest of my life—and that would have been fine, good even. But he knew he didn’t need to do that. All it would take was a little lump of earwax and a couple of days. And my limited knowledge. And so he did what it took.
He’s a gracious, merciful God, who brings good things even out of ignorance.
I’m all in.
No matter what.