They have ears but cannot hear,Psalm 135:17
and mouths but cannot breathe.
Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”Mark 4:9
To whom can I give warning?Jeremiah 6:10
Who will listen when I speak?
Their ears are closed,
and they cannot hear.
They scorn the word of the Lord.
They don’t want to listen at all.
So yesterday I did a thing. Having failed the hearing screening at my annual physical, I spent an hour at Wake Audiology running a set of more complete tests. It turns out that, yes, I do have some mild to moderate hearing loss – especially at higher frequencies.
The audiologist (Jessica Silvani, Au.D – doctor of audiology), ran me through tests designed to measure my response to various frequencies, to observe differences between left and right, to pinpoint specific deficiencies, and to understand where – and if – the use of hearing aids may be efficacious.
The tests confirmed the anecdotal observations I came in with. Namely the difficulty I’m experiencing isolating individual voices in situations with background noise (like a restaurant, a dinner party, the lobby at church), and my occasional failure to extract meaning from sentences when I cannot see the person’s lips form the words (if, for example, Rebekah and I are sitting side by side).
Any intervention, then, needs to address not so much volume as clarity. “What would be the point of more decibels if background noise increased proportionally just as much as speech?” I asked.
My audiologist was thorough, helpful, and clear in her explanations; she believes that Wake Audiology can prescribe an effective solution to address my particular hearing needs. Though I will likely put off moving forward until this time next year because, as I said when they explained the cost, “But we already have a mortgage!!”
They Have Ears But Cannot/ will not Hear:
One of the great themes of the scriptures – both Old and New Testaments – is that of hearing and listening. Jesus in particular is fond of saying, “For crying out loud! Would you people please put your listening ears on!”
Time and again we can read passages that make a distinction between having the physical equipment (ears) and actually hearing; and also drawing a finer point between the ability to hear and actively listening; and again – beyond even listening – moving from listening to understanding.
Ears, but not hearing. Hearing, but not listening. Listening, but not understanding.
I could even go further, and we could talk about hearing, listening, understanding… but then taking the final step and responding with changed lives. “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” (James 1:22).
There is a long distance, it turns out, between being created with the essential equipment (made in God’s image) and then living in such a way that our lives honor the spectacular intention for life – abundant life, more and better life, the life (1 Timothy 6:19) that is truly life.
Dr. Silvani gave me permission to use a photo of her unusual mask (admittedly kind of creepy looking!). Because she works with hearing loss, many patients rely on lip-reading for clues when they are in conversation. So her mask includes a transparent panel over the mouth.
When we are searching for answers, for clarity, and for meaning, quite often we need to take an extra step, or two, or more, and be creative. This is true not only for consumers of information – most of us, as listeners – but from the perspective of the teacher/speaker/doctor/helper too.
It is not enough for us to say, “I didn’t hear, so I am not responsible…” It is also not enough to say, “They should know how to listen, where to go, when church meets etc. If they care then it’s up to them to show up…”
Communication is the whole package, it is about both delivering and receiving, about questions and conversations, about clarity and clarification, about receptivity from everyone involved. This is exactly the truth about communicating the message of life too – real life, abundant life.
Next time you pray that more people will listen to the Good News maybe also pray that you are communicating with clarity and compassion and grace too.
Always something to learn; every day – DEREK