The only way out is through

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)


I’ve written about my deafness a few other times. Arabah tells a bit of my life story. And please read Tips for Communicating with a Deaf Person if you have any deaf friends!


How has God brought you through difficult experiences in your life?

13 thoughts on “The only way out is through

  1. Anne Weaver

    Tears sting my eyes as I read this.
    This morning I read in Rev 2. To those who overcome, I will give hidden manna and a white stone with a new name, known only to the one who receives it. And in chapter 3. Hold fast to what you have, so that no one will take our crown… to those that are victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious!
    So much overcoming to do in this life -as you press in, the Lord gathers your tears in a bottle! They’ll be a remembrance of victories won!
    There is so much life coming through you. Standing with you and cheering you on!

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    1. Thank you, Anne! You have already blessed me so much! And yes, that daily overcoming and crying for the presence of the Lord with us will someday result in joy we can’t even imagine.

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  2. Verna

    “The only way out is through”- I learned that a year ago when my youngest went to school, and after 25 years of having a baby or preschooler in the house I nearly went into shock with no one hanging around. And this year- with our present crisis- I realize it again. I having been hanging out in Romans 5 and 8 the last few weeks; this verse (in my own words) has comforted me often:

    “And I will not be disappointed or brought to shame in this anticipation of the glory of God; because the love of God flows splashing thru my heart from the Holy Ghost which He has given.”
    Romans 5:5

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      1. Heidi

        In dealing with anger at the seeming unfairness of my little brother’s sudden death, God spoke so softly, gently, “You have no choice now but to go through this. The only choice you have is whether or not you take My hand and walk through it with Me.”
        So much of life is completely out of our control. However, we do have the blessed assurance of the Father’s constant presence and love.

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  3. Louisa

    When I have to face something tough I think generally the same thing but with words not nearly as nice: from Going on a Bear Hunt… “You can’t go under it, you can’t go over it, you can’t go around it; you have to go through it.”/

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    1. Murrey

      Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever marched through was my first birth. After 30-some hours laboring at home with non-stop grueling back labor, I wanted to give up my homebirth plans, go to the hospital, and get some relief.

      Some people, when they’re in such a position, go to the Lord and receive Scripture to strengthen their hearts. Then they sally forth valiantly to the fight and overcome! Yay!

      At my crisis moment, my husband restarted the scripture lullabies he’d been playing all through my labor (and which I was heartily sick of). The song that came on was, “There’s a mountain in my way/ Far too high for me to scale./ I can’t do this on my own./ It seems impossible.” And the chorus, “With God, anything is possible!”

      Well. That was the Word from the Lord for my husband which my husband needed, but it mostly made me mad.

      So the Lord smiled and sent me my rhema. The picture I got in my moment of deepest need was, yes, that same bear hunt Louisa referenced, an echo down the years from first grade music class: “Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go around it. Gotta go THROUGH it!”

      And I rose grimly, the iron having entered my soul, to face the challenge. An hour and a half later, I had marched through the difficulty to the joy on the other side, and my precious daughter was safely born.

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  4. Victoria Miller

    You sis, have gone through so much, so bravely, so well, so real. I look up to you more than words can say. Many times in my own anguish, your words of clarity or kindness have helped me see, and push on. My hard time was this spring and summer in the worst episode I have had in 8 years. Thanks for coming to the hospital. Even more thanks for the worst episode I have ever had in my life 8 years ago, when you showed unending unwavering compassion and love. Through you God loves people who wouldn’t experience his love otherwise. Thank you sis! I love you!

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