The Time Her Deafness Taught Me to Listen

There are so many stories to share with you from what’s been going on in the Mac home ; funny stories, injurious ones, happy-news ones… But first I want to share this particularly story from my past (my pre-kids, pre-Dallas days).

Susan stood out among my graduate school speech-language pathology clients. Each semester we were assigned 3-4 clients. By graduation we were required to have seen a variety of cases; adults, children, speech, language (yes there is a difference between speech & language…).

I had never treated a case like Susan’s.

Her speech-language disorder started at birth. Born without the ability to hear sound and given the official diagnostic label: “deaf” (or less preferred, “hearing impaired”).

As an adult, against research and doctors’ advice, Susan underwent surgery to receive a cochlear implant. A modern miracle, this technology gave her the sense of hearing. No sound–>sound. In a moment.

But let me explain, just because sound came in her brain didn’t mean she understood what she heard. There were no “files” in her brain for sound. A therapist taught her associate meaning to sound. And to hear the difference between a knock on the door and the doorbell.

My job was to help her use her voice correctly; to adjust her intonation to match the intended meaning. To learn the importance of a pause. For instance, without a pause these sentences take on completely different meanings. “It’s time to eat, Grandma.” (pause with the comma) and “It’s time to eat Grandma.” (no pause)…a life or death difference (excuse the dark humor). In speaking and reading, pausing is important.

She taught me pausing was important in living, too.

Working with Susan I felt I never really used all five of my senses. She opened my eyes (and ears) to experiences I rushed passed.

Her fifth sense laid dormant for decades, only to be flipped on like a switch. Now even the smallest noises seemed important.  The sounds my brain filters out so I can focus on the intended target, were loud and meaningful to Susan.

The Walk

A time which sticks out in my memory is when she entered the therapy room smiling from ear-to-ear. She couldn’t wait to tell me what happened that morning.

Day after day she walked along the same sidewalk with her dog. At a specific spot on their familiar walk she would hear a sound. Looking around she could never pinpoint its source. Until, on this particularly morning, she looked up. Above her head peeking out from a nest, she saw the tiny tweeting beak.

She couldn’t hide the joy from hearing a new sound, a song unheard for the four decades of her life, a simple bird’s song.

birdbrotherlawrence

photo credit

Susan’s story reminds me to stop and notice God’s presence around me…throughout the day. The noise of the world will drown out His voice if I don’t stop to listen. If my brain is trained to filter out His voice, so I can focus on what I think is most important, then I miss His whispers.

Yes, I hear Him when I am sitting in my leather chair during quiet moments before the boys’ feet hit the floor. This is my anchor point. Or like in the case of Susan, this is when the sound of His voice is given meaning. In the quiet, without distractions, I can tune in and know truth through the Holy Spirit and reading His Word.

Then when the boys descend the stairs and the crazy waves start rolling in, I can stay centered in His presence. I can hear Him in the chaos because I know His voice. I can dwell on His message because I took the time to hear it.

Interestingly God refers to himself in the present tense when He tells Moses His name, “I AM”. He is present and this is where I want to be. Present in His presence, experiencing indescribable joy…despite circumstances.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

Today take a moment to stop and listen. Perhaps your kids are yelling your name. Listen farther, past the sound of electronic toys. Do you hear the buzz of the refrigerator? The sound of cars driving past your house? A bird’s song in a nearby tree? Can you hear God whispering your name? Do you know His voice?

May we lean in to listen. To love Him, believe Him, hear Him, even though we do not see Him, God is here. He is working. He wants us to join Him and experience the joy of His presence. 

Curious about hearing God’s voice? I did a great study once by Priscilla Shirer called “He Speaks to Me: Preparing to Hear from God”. She has another study called “Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God is Speaking.”

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4 thoughts on “The Time Her Deafness Taught Me to Listen

  1. I love both of those studies, it may be time to get them out again. Sometimes a nice reminder of what we should be listening for is a welcome gift. Thanks Heather.

  2. Just catching up on your blog since Christmas!! LOVE. Especially this post–praying for the grace to make more time to hear Him, and be anchored to Him this year.

    • Isn’t it crazy how it feels like life is just now getting back to “normal”! Thankful you enjoyed this post. Definitely something God has been pressing on my heart lately. (thanks for the encouragement Jacki).

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