by Bob Lupton, March 2011 “You need a hearing aid!” That’s what Peggy keeps telling me when I fail to respond to something she has said. I accuse her of mumbling but she insists that I miss what other people are saying as well, that I ask them questions about things they have just told me about. I turn the TV volume up too loud, she says, and my most frequent response to her is “huh?”
I finally gave in and agreed to get my hearing tested. The ear-nose & throat doctor did a routine inspection to see that the canals were clear and all the moving parts were in good working order. And they were (for the most part). He then sent me down the hall to the audiologist who put me in a sound-proof booth, positioned a set of headphones over my ears and told me to push the button on a little remote whenever I heard a beeping sound. I listened very intently to catch every sound, even very faint ones I wasn’t positive I heard, so that the tests would confirm what I had been telling Peggy all along – that my hearing was just fine. When I emerged from the booth, the audiologist handed me a print-out of the results. “You need hearing aids,” she said with a smile. “In both ears.” Peggy was smiling too.
Insert a small device into each ear and a world of sounds floods my senses, tones and timbre that I haven’t heard in years. Almost too intense at first, a bit overwhelming. But rich in variety and range. Peggy speaks much more clearly and I turn the speaker volume down several notches on my phone and TV. I guess the reason why I insisted for so long that my hearing was just fine is that I didn’t know what I wasn’t hearing.
This has made me wonder what other sounds I have been missing. I remembered that Jesus said something about people who have ears but do not hear. So I looked it up and saw that He said this to a number of people on several different occasions. The most sobering (for me) was when He was talking to a group of folk about the cost of being His disciple. He told them that they had to forsake everything – family, possessions, even their own life – and pick up a cross if they were going to follow Him. Count the cost before you make the decision, He told them. You’ve got to become salt, seasoning, in an unsavory world, poured out at great personal price. That’s when He said, “He who has ears, let him hear.”
He obviously knew that some in the group, maybe most, wanted to see the miracles, be inspired by His incredible speeches, enjoy the camaraderie, but keep their options open. Leaving family security, parting with inheritance and birthright, embracing the indignity of a cross – now that was an altogether different matter. No wonder they had a hard time hearing it. Come to think of it, I have a rather hard time hearing it.
As a matter of fact a good bit of what Jesus taught, maybe even a majority, I have trouble hearing. The predominate overtones of contemporary culture make it difficult to hear such teachings as giving away one’s second coat, of not laying up treasures, of taking no thought for tomorrow. In a society of unparalleled wealth with TV’s in every room and closets bulging with clothes, where consumption is considered a patriotic act, how am I to understand giving away my second – my seventh? – coat? In an environment where I am taught by respected Christian advisors that it is good stewardship to lay up treasures, that planning for a secure financial future is the responsible thing to do, how am I am to decipher these Jesus values that say “give it away”? When the wise counsel of the culture advises me to plead innocent until proven guilty, how am I to hear the voice that says “confess your sins one to another”? I find it alarmingly easy to simply tune out the Jesus words that don’t harmonize with my western Christian values.
My hearing is just fine, I insist as the noise of the culture drowns out the voice of the One I claim to be following. Yet I can’t help wondering what wondrous sounds would flood my senses, what richness would flow into my life if I took the risk of allowing the One who restored hearing to the deaf to perform a corrective procedure on my inner ears.