The date is Sunday, August 14th. It is the day before Dave’s activation at the Mayo, and we are sitting in church. It is exciting and almost a relief that we are now finally so close to the moment when he will be able to hear again, but for now, for this moment, for today, he is still deaf. He can’t hear the beautiful melodies of the worship songs; he needs me to underline the words of the hymns with my finger in order to have some sense as to what we’re singing; and he can’t hear our Pastor’s sermon – at all. I try to write down some scripture passages and key points for Dave so that he can grasp something of the message, but Dave tells me, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it.” He volunteers to step out with our daughter Anna who was a bit too restless to remain with us between the seats. I let out a deflated sigh because the message today is SO perfectly relevant to what Dave is experiencing. It is so frustrating that he can’t benefit from it. Our Pastor is preaching on the “Universal Question of Suffering” – one of the greatest age-old questions that mankind has ever wrestled with. And my husband can’t hear it because he’s deaf.
We are looking at the passage of John 9:1-5 about a man blind from birth. Jesus sees the man and has compassion on him, ultimately healing him, but the disciples step back to speculate as to the cause of his suffering. They ask Jesus, “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (vs. 2-3).
In our human suffering, we are always tempted to ask: “Why, God? Why are you allowing this suffering? Why me, God?” As in Jesus’ answer, most of the time God chooses not to reveal the cause of our suffering; instead, He shows us the purpose for our suffering – so that the works of God might be displayed through us! Our Pastor explained that Jesus moves beyond the cause of the man’s blindness in the past to the purposes of God in the future. “It is God who commands the genetic make-up of the egg and sperm. In Exodus 4:11, the Lord says to Moses, ‘Who has made man’s mouth. Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’ God has never met a child for whom He has no plan! There is no disability or suffering outside of the sovereign purposes of God!” Then he highlighted several in our congregation as poignant examples to bring the message home. He literally asked, “Dave, why are you deaf?… (pause)… These reasons are hidden from us, but God’s purposes are always for the good!” (See Romans 8:28-39). You can go to www.gracechurchmn.org to hear the full message from August 14th. Even though Dave couldn’t hear it at the time, it powerfully adjusted our perspective on the hardships we were currently experiencing.
But now it is two weeks later. The date is Sunday, August 28th, and it’s official! I’m going to say it like it is! The result that Dave has had with the cochlear implant IS literally nothing short of a miracle!
We have just returned from going to church for the first time after his activation. We sat in the third row back from the front, slightly off-center. During the first hymn I sidled over next to Dave to show him which line we were on, and he nodded as if to say, “I know, I got it.” I continued singing and watching Dave’s lips, and he really seemed to be able to follow along by himself, without any help from me. So since I had an extra hymn book and a free hand, I turned to Micaiah to help him follow along instead.
Then came the sermon time. A few minutes into the message I glance over and noticed that the hearing assisted listening device that he normally would have had connected to his hearing aid was just sitting in his lap, the cord not connected to his cochlear implant.
I tap Dave’s arm and mouth: “Can you hear?”
He flashes me a big grin, “Yes!”
“Wow,” I think, “But how much of it are you catching?” I whisper.
“All of it, I think,” with that he beams another huge grin at me and we both turn back to the message.
I sit there dumbfounded, thinking, “Really? Seriously? So, okay, you ARE hearing, but are you reallyhearing it all, or at least most of it, or at least enough of it to be able to understand the message? …WOW!”
The reality is that Dave seems to be able both hear and comprehend at a far better rate than my brain can catch up with. Dave could actually HEAR our pastor preach WITHOUT needing to use the hearing assisted device! He could actually sit back, relax, and simply listen – just like the rest of us.
Our Pastor even made note of this before he started his sermon. He flashed a big grin at us and said, “Dave, I am so glad that you are here today, AND that you can HEAR me!” Then turning to the congregation he said, “Can you imagine only getting 20% of a sermon and then trying to piece together the whole message? Imagine the struggle. That is what Dave has had to live with for most of his life.”
Well, not anymore, Hallelujah! It is almost too good to be true. Although it is taking time to sink in, days like today are so elating when we realize all that Dave can now hear and all of the people he can now connect with. He now approach and talk to anyone he wishes, whereas before he would not even try to approach certain people, or make new friends, because he knew he would not be able to understand them. This was always very hard for Dave as he is very extroverted by nature. As we left church today, I even noticed him talking to another man with whom he’s had little previous interaction. They were trying to trouble shoot a technical sound problem with trying to make audio recordings of the Sunday sermons. Go figure – and this from a guy who couldn’t hear two weeks ago!
This is just stunning! It is SO EXCITING, and we are SO GRATEFUL there are no words to express it! It is so marvelous that it will just take time for the reality of this awesome gift – this awesome miracle – to settle in. After years of decline and three full weeks of deafness, this is nota dream that we have woken up to, nor some Alice in Wonderland” fairytale that will be gone tomorrow. No, this new wonderland of hearing for Dave IS REAL! And it is here to stay! And it is most certainly, without doubt, nothing short of a miraculous gift from God.
Even with all that is known today, in large part the human ear remains much of a mystery to modern mankind. In contrast to the human eye, not much can be seen about the human ear. It has a microscopic, hidden, delicate design that testifies to how fearfully and wonderfully made we are. The human ear is a mystery such that not even we as humans can see it all, explain it all, or master it all. Only a few people who have a hearing loss actually know the definitive reason as to “Why?” When questioned as to the cause of their loss, most people only have a vague idea. Some know it is hereditary or due to an illness, but many will say that they don’t really know, but they’ve been told it’s some sort of sensorineural hearing loss.
It is only by God’s wisdom and grace that amazing new technology like the cochlear implant is now available. Just today, Micaiah even realized, “Just think Mom, if someone didn’t have this creative idea, Daddy would’ve been deaf the rest of his life!” The fact that God allowed Dave to be born in a day and age when this technology was also being birthed, knowing that it would develop and mature as Dave grew up and his hearing declined, so that it would be ready for him in his hour of need IS a demonstration of the goodness and providence of God!
Only God could so amazingly design the human brain to be able to adapt to an entirely new stimulus of sound; and only God could give the wisdom and skill needed to develop, implant, and program such AMAZING new technology; and only God could breathe His blessing on Dave’s process of activation to have such phenomenal initial results.
Truly, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). Amen! May God’s works be fully displayed in us, and may all glory be to His Name!