Ever since I was seven days old, I haven’t known what it is to hear with my own physical ears. Over my babyhood, my parents first noticed some quirky things about me—such as me screaming through the night if I couldn’t see them in my room to me crawling on my back—effectively creating a bald spot on the back of my baby fuzz head from carpet friction so I could see everything going on. They then noticed I wasn’t picking up on noises and had my hearing tested again at around a year and a half old, revealing a severe hearing loss in both ears. My parents, who had also adopted my older brother just a year before I was born, were suddenly thrust into an uncertain future. They resolved to do everything they could, starting with getting me my first pair of hearing aids when I was close to two years old.
My dad, an avid lover and creator of music, recalls the car ride home that day. For the first time, I sang out loud to myself, because I could finally hear my own voice. He wept.
God’s grace made evident.
When I was four, I lost even more hearing, putting me now at the severe-to-profound hearing loss level. I had exploratory surgery to see if there was a cause why but none was determined. My parents consulted doctors and specialists, one of which gave a reason but also with a sentence, and this is a quote: “With the degree of the patient’s hearing loss, there is no reason to expect her to read past a first grade level or develop more than rudimentary communication skills. While there might be a genius locked inside her, you will likely never know her full potential.”
My parents sat there, dumbfounded, and wondered what to do with such information. It quickly turned into anger and indignation at said doctor for putting such a sentence on a child who is still so unknown and unexplored. They resolved not to believe a word of it, and instead, do everything they could to help me and have faith in God with the rest.
And the ironies began—in Kindergarten, I was pulled up to first grade for half a day specifically to be in reading classes because I was reading too advanced for my age.
God’s grace made evident.
My childhood was full of contrasts: I worked with a handful of specialists to develop what auditory capacity I had left, along with extensive speech therapy. I had close relationships with my teachers, as they wore a microphone in class where I wore an FM system with a receiving box strapped around my waist every day with the cords running up to the hearing aids in my ears. Yet, I was also a girl who excelled in school, taking classes above my grade level throughout, and even four years of French. I was a girl who started on the varsity basketball and soccer teams as a sophomore in high school. I was the girl accepted into a prestigious architecture program in college and moved across the country to attend. I was the girl involved in a million things, always seeming to surpass all expectations expected of me because of the disability I have.
God’s grace made evident.
But I was also a girl that struggled deeply with being different and did everything I could to make it not so. For whatever help the hearing aids gave me, whatever accommodations I received, the reality is that I was not like everyone else. It was obvious through the bulky hearing aids I wore and the cadence of speech I have. My parents took me to gatherings of the deaf and hard of hearing communities with peers—but I was not like them either, for I did not use sign language. I didn’t feel I belonged in either world—the hearing, or the deaf. I often felt utterly alone, because for a long time, I didn’t know a single person who could exactly relate.
At the age of 13, through my best friends, I came to know Jesus as Savior. And while that’s a story in itself, entering relationship with Him brought a peace I had not experienced before, and finally, a supernatural feeling of being known and no longer alone. For if no one I knew could relate, I had finally found peace in that He knew me and loved me, and perhaps, even had a purpose for this lack of hearing and its role in my life.
God’s grace made evident.
However, God always wants to refine you. In my teenage years and early college, He shed the light on my pride and self-sufficiency that came as a result of overcoming the disability that I have. Pride because though I finally started to learn and accept that my hearing loss does not define me—my accomplishments and abilities became the pillars on which I chose to stand. Self-sufficiency, because I had become a rather well-oiled machine that knew what I needed to do in different situations—turn the hearing aids up, switch positions in the room, avoid loud places, get notes from a friend, etc. and more.
In college, I began to see some of these clearly. God continued to ask me to strip them away and trust Him—to truly allow myself to become weak so He could show himself strong. One of the pinnacles came a season nine years ago, where through prayer, I felt him asking me to trust him by not wearing my hearing aids any longer. That’s one of the most flabbergasting requests, because, as in the words of my parents—you wouldn’t choose to not wear eye glasses or contacts if you can’t see, right? But He pressed it upon my heart, and pressed it—leading me to take out one and then a few months, take out the other. And since then, they haven’t been back in my ears.
He challenged me to radical faith—to believe in His healing and restoration of my hearing, like the miracles we read of and the miracles we hear of, made possible by the power and indwelling of His Holy Spirit. So I prayed. I asked, I shared boldly. And I had beautiful, brief and fleeting moments in that season where my ears would open during music at church, or during my now husband’s prayers over me. Moments where I knew and believed this was possible.
God’s grace made evident.
But the full opening of my ears did not come. And the challenges in that season grew, prompting a whole new series of lessons for how I communicate and function in the world, not just for me but all those close to me. And while I felt so incredibly close to the Lord at times, the loneliness I had previously felt was only magnified more. For then, I sat in a living room with my college roommates, watching them keel over with laughter but no longer being able to hear it. Then, I could no longer hear the voice of John singing next to me at church, no longer the cues that my hearing aids could bring me of all the things happening in this world—the phone ringing, the door closing, sirens running, someone calling my name instead of having to tap me or wave me down. It felt a huge loss. So why, if God pressed this on my heart—why was his grace not evident in restoring my hearing—the very thing I set out to trust Him for?
How was God’s grace evident now? How, when it was not being manifested in what I was trusting Him for, and all that I gave up by forsaking my hearing aids?
It was a slow and steady work in my heart—to truly embrace my weakness and how He can be made strong. To not let my pride bulldoze every situation where I thought I had to prove that I was no different than anyone else and just as capable—if not to convince them, but to convince myself. I had to accept more grace from people in that first year than I ever had before, and continue to to this day. And that vulnerability is a beautiful thing. God makes Himself known in the people He provides around you, and I have been deeply rich through my community.
So what since then?
Even in all the silence, God has been near. There’s an intimacy with Him experienced in the quiet, and my dreams are full of sounds that I miss throughout the day. There’s moments it comes up—like when I cannot follow a conversation or understand what someone is saying. I remember my nearing wedding day in 2010 where I couldn’t imagine not hearing the events of the day without hearing aids, encoding them as memories in my heart and mind, not being able to hear the music of my first dance with John—but there, grace is manifested through a man who deeply loves me, and practiced our dance with me in the weeks prior to our wedding. On that day, during our song, he tapped my back throughout the whole song to keep us on beat and step. And that may have been one of the most beautiful moments of the entire day.
God’s grace made evident—He knows how to lead us.
We moved to Brooklyn nearly six years ago. And in ironies of ironies, suddenly I became the one who could have a conversation nearly anywhere—including on the Union Square Platform with 120 decibels of trains roaring by (though I can hear those—I think everyone can!). I can’t have a good conversation in a dim bar or a dance party here—of both there are so many!—so if you’ve invited or tried to talk to me then with no success, it’s really nothing personal. I was the one who slept soundly throughout the night where John had to fiddle with the radiators to just the right turns so they wouldn’t hiss and keep him up. I was the one who could take in so much of the incredible richness this city has to offer visually—through the structures of the buildings to the body language of the people—because I don’t have the auditory input overstimulating or overcoming me.
And in a city full of immigrants and people from everywhere, I’m rarely ever looked at anymore with a crooked head as if the person is trying to figure out what’s wrong with me because of my speech, or previously, my hearing aids in my head. Instead, I’m countlessly asked what country I’m from once people hear me speak, and I do get confused looks when I say I’m from Colorado—so sometimes I say I’m from Sweden for fun. And we all know that people don’t really listen to each other when out and about, so I often just appear zen to others when instead, I just don’t really hear anything. I feel like I fit in here, because there’s not a normal, and it’s beautiful to see all of the ways God has created humankind and made in His image. All of its strengths along with its glaring weaknesses.
God’s grace evident.
I don’t know what this means for the future. I do believe now that if I were to choose to wear hearing aids again, it wouldn’t be a disobedience anymore. And the question runs through my and John’s mind often, especially when thinking about being parents in the hopeful near future. I can’t imagine forgoing the ability to hear our children, but I fear once again of becoming reliant upon hearing aids more than the Lord... and drowning out His wonderful presence and voice in all of these last nine years of relative silence. It’s hard to not think that wearing hearing aids would push aside what I’ve tried (and largely failed in) trusting Him for in His full healing and restoration of my ears.
If I take the long view of this and why I still have hearing aids out to this day, I see what He has made manifest in my life that wouldn’t have happened without sacrificing my grip on them. It has all been worth it. If I take the short view, I would confess before you now that it’s really hard to ask God in full faith and trust to heal me as I did then—because there is pain in trusting and asking for something so specific that you believe He’s put on your heart or given you the desire for and having yet to receive it. My asking has oscillated between being generic, diluted, or ceasing altogether. There’s times and seasons I ask, but it’s with reservation, as if I don’t want allow myself to be hurt again. Or, it’s with a reservation that sits with a trust in Him that He will do as He wills in my life, and even if my hearing is never restored in my lifetime, there is great hope and answer provided by him in the renewing of our bodies after death. If not in this lifetime will I hear with perfect ears, then there, and then, I will.
God’s grace made evident.
Because, even after a lifetime journey I’ve known, in all of the ways God has made himself evident and manifested in my life, in all of the changes, there are still questions. There are still places of pain. There is still the daily aspect of having to trust Him for both the short and long view of life, and whatever that may mean—in the range from super practical to supernatural.
Nine years ago, when I took out my last hearing aid, this was the cornerstone passage that spoke to me and continued to inspire me:
“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” (John 9:1-7)
Maybe one day, unknown in the future, my ears will be opened and I will come back hearing. But for now, I find rest in this truth: I do not have this hearing loss as a condemnation as a result of sin, nor of my parents, but it is that His works might be displayed through me. With that, I wish to offer up my life and this story He’s written to do that very thing. He is the Author.
And His grace is always made evident.