A husband and wife had been married for many years when the husband began to fear that his wife was going deaf. He implemented an informal exam. While his wife was in the kitchen cooking dinner, the husband in a normal, conversation tone asked from the den, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” She didn’t answer. So he moved closer to the kitchen and repeated the question; no response.
Then he walked right up to the kitchen door, about ten feet away. “Honey, what’s for dinner?” he asked. Nothing. Now he placed himself directly behind her: “Honey, what’s for dinner?” The wife whirled around on her heels and shouted, “George, for the hundredth time, I said we are having chicken!” Often, others listen just fine; we are the ones who are hard of hearing.
What a beautiful phrase: Hard of hearing. We don’t say “hard of running,” if someone has an injured knee, or “hard of seeing” if someone wears glasses. We don’t say “hard of chewing” if someone has missing teeth or poorly fitted dentures. But we use “hard of hearing” all the time.
Sometimes the hard of hearing have had an injury, nerve damage, or disease. It’s the result of age or overexposure to loud noises. Yes, the teenager that cannot hear you because his earbuds are turned up to excruciating levels, becomes the middle-aged man who cannot hear you when you tell him what’s for dinner.
Then of course there is the deafness of the Spirit – it’s hard to hear God speak. Maybe God used to move within your heart, he once whispered in your ear, or stirred in your soul – or maybe you have never had such a sensation of God speaking at all. God might speak to others, or you used to know what it was like for God to speak to you, but now, you’re stone deaf.
So you do all the talking; you do all the praying and asking of questions (“What’s for dinner?”). You do all the testing of God’s failing abilities; but it’s not God who is deaf. You might be the one with “eyes that cannot see, ears that cannot hear, and a heart that cannot understand.” You are hard of hearing.
The troubling thing is, when someone’s hearing begins to erode, his or her life gets louder, only magnifying the problem. Haven’t you noticed that? The TV volume is cranked up to the unendurable decibels of a jet fighter. Warning bells and alarms are ignored, so they keep blaring. Communication becomes difficult, a game of escalating voices. Hearing anything becomes impossible.
Bring that scenario into the realm of faith. While we want God to shatter his perceived silence with thunderclaps, earthquakes, and firestorms, why should he speak to us over the noise of our lives? Why would he add to the commotion? His voice will only get lost – and it does – in the dissonance that surrounds us. We have to get quiet to hear his “still, small voice.” We have to “put on our listening caps,” as our elementary school teachers told us, to hear what God has to say.
My friend David Beavers says it impeccably: “Along life’s way, you lose you. Your life gets covered, buried, and numbed out with addictions, distractions, medications, and busyness of all kinds. If you don’t believe what I’m saying, if you don’t think you’ve lost the capacity to feel your own life and to hear God speak, spend the day alone, without a phone, without a book, or a computer. There, listen to and observe the insane, obsessive, cyclical and compulsive chatter that drives you – inside and out. It is nothing more than noise, and noise is the problem.”
So, you might not be hard of hearing at all. It could be the pandemonium within and without; the sound and fury that has been absorbed into your heart, mind, and very soul. We have to turn down the volume around us, not to hear ourselves think, but to hear anything – even the Maker of the Universe – when he gently speaks our name.