I have fairly significant hearing loss in my left ear, and a moderate amount of hearing loss in my right ear. This is not good for someone who tries to play rock ‘n roll critic. It turns out that it’s not good for family dynamics, either.
Right now both of my ears are blocked. I’m going to the ENT doctor later this week, and that will help restore me to my normal significant/moderate hearing loss levels, and will allow me to use everyone’s favorite symbol of rock ‘n roll rebellion – the hearing aid – to hear almost normally. But for now you might as well try to communicate with me using ASL. Unfortunately, I don’t know ASL, and the only sign I feel like making involves extending my middle finger to just about everyone. If I encounter you during these times, please know that it’s not your fault. But I am frustrated and angry, and apt to be in a foul mood. The good news is that you can say all kinds of nasty things to me in return, and I won’t hear you.
Sunday mornings tend to bring these kinds of issues into focus, in both good and bad ways. We headed for church, and I popped one of my favorite CDs into the car’s CD player. The protests began, as they usually do, almost immediately, ranging from “Turn that off!” to “Turn that down!” Variety, the spice of life. I switched CDs, opting for a more crowd-pleasing mix. No matter. It was still too loud. So I turned it down. And then I couldn’t hear it, although everyone else could apparently hear it just fine. So I turned off the music, sulked, pouted, and generally went out of my way to let everyone else know how unhappy I was. And they’ll know we are Christians by our sullenness.
Then we strolled into church, late as usual, and the worship band was playing some rockin’, upbeat tune about the transformative power of Jesus. Yee haw. Here is your New Creation, O God, pissed at the world, probably pissed at You, most certainly pissed at the three people I love the most. Lift up those holy hands.
I didn’t want to worship. I wanted to sulk. But I figured that I might as well at least level with God and tell Him that. So I did. And I don’t normally hear from God, but I think I distinctly heard God tell me, “Whatever.” That was it. “Whatever.” God as Valley Girl. A little later the band played a song whose chorus is “Break these chains, set me free,” and that one seemed to make some sense, so I prayed that, too. I didn’t feel any different afterwards. I didn’t feel particularly spiritually renewed and cleansed. But at least I could sing that one and mean it. I am tired of being led by the nose by my ears. I am tired of being held captive by my circumstances and my emotions. I’m tired of not being able to hear. Break these chains. Set me free.
On the way home we stopped by Best Buy and I bought some headphones. Now I can blast away and not shake the walls and alarm the neighbors and drown out every other sound in the house. “Be careful not to play the music too loud,” Kate told me. “You can damage your ears.” It was a bit like telling Darth Vader not to breathe too loudly. You work with what you’ve got.
And maybe it’s worthwhile to take inventory of what you’ve got. I thought about that later, after some time and some distance had allowed me to gain some perspective. I’ve got lousy ears and people who are willing to pay me to tell them what I hear. I have a wife and kids who love me in spite of my sullenness and pouting. I’m a part of a wonderful church I dearly love, surrounded by new friends, and I’m growing slowly, painfully more in love with a God who speaks in Valley Girl aphorisms. It is that still small voice that is barely discernible for those who have ears to hear, and sometimes even for those who don’t.