Someone asked me again recently how I became deaf. I always feel slightly awkward answering the question because the answer is complicated. Also, how do I speak of such a traumatic thing so casually, as if I’m discussing the weather?
The short version of the story is that I was born completely deaf in one ear and moderately deaf in the other. With a good hearing aid and speech therapy, I functioned much like a normal person. Using the phone or listening to recordings was no problem. But three days after I turned sixteen, I took my hearing aid out to shower. When I put my hearing aid back in an hour later, my hearing was gone.
The long version of the story is written in tattered journals and on counseling desks wet with my tears. It’s written in cells of my body that respond in ways I don’t understand. It is written in places in my soul that haven’t seen the light yet but someday will.
But the recent question about my deafness reminded me of something I learned the year I lost my hearing.
During that time of darkness (which was not the friendly kind of darkness that wraps around you soothingly, but the darkness that hides steel blades waiting to slice your insides and you barely escape with your life), I found hope in the pages of a book.
I sat on my antique four-poster bed by an old twelve-pane window in our farmhouse and read an autobiography written by a deaf woman. I felt solidarity with her because her experiences and feelings were similar to mine. I don’t remember many details of the book except for a quote that turned out to be part of a song written by Julie Snow.
Baptism of fire, all happening within
Illusions burn like tall grass in the wild and reckless wind
And now they’re coming down around me
And I am rising up
Like a great bell resurrected
Ringing loud and true
The only way out is through
The only way out is through.
Right there was the answer I needed to climb out of my terrible, deadly depression.
And ever since, I have tried to live that way.
So much has happened this summer. A few months ago, I was painfully misrepresented by people I wanted to call my friends. Last week at my hearing check-up in Kansas City, I learned that my aging implant needs expensive upgrades. I am currently in the process of losing another foster child who is incredibly precious to me. All these things (and more) make me want to hide, ignore, censor, dismiss, and retreat. Anything but go through it. I can’t make anyone like me and I can’t make my hearing problem go away and I can’t keep the state from moving my foster babies when the state says move.
I don’t want to think about or feel another painful thing.
Yet I feel the same certainty in my spirit that I did as a suffering sixteen-year-old: that the only way to rise above trouble is not to ignore it but to go through it. The only way to keep from dying inside is to keep my eyes on Jesus while traveling the path that feels like death but instead leads to life.
To suppress and pretend to forgive, to paste righteous-sounding words and silky-smooth prayers over it all would be so much easier. But healing does not come that way; only hardness of heart. Healing comes when I run sobbing into the face of the thing that wants to kill me.
Healing comes when I go through it, propelled by faith alone, and find Jesus closer and dearer than I thought possible.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
Hebrews 12:1-2a (ESV)
How has God brought you through difficult experiences in your life?