And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
He who has ears to hear let him hear.
When I first learned I would likely lose all of my hearing— that horrifying diagnosis of progressive sensorial neural hearing loss— well-meaning people looked me in the eye with that intensity that comes from an inner compulsion to convince.
“God will use this to help so many people…”
Those words made my insides churn, feeding the maw of roiling anger in the pit of my soul. I spewed the words back at God:
How could a good God, as You claim to be, make me go deaf so that others can learn?
I looked at my young children, John Mark was 5, Rebekah an adorable toddler, Elizabeth a babe in arms. Matthew just a distant dream.
I would never, ever even consider hurting one of mine to teach lessons to the others! How could You?
And there’s a whole story there of how this good God of mine rescued me from that terrible and terrifying place of seething rebellion. An ugly story that is part of who I am, making me worship in deepest wonder at the One who loved me, even then.
And now… a new chapter. Another hard part.
Last week I flew to L.A. to surprise that baby, Elizabeth for her 30th birthday.
Joy! Laughter! Hugs and hilarity that we pulled it off!
I stayed a few days extra so that I could go with my girl to a dreaded appointment for her son, Duke. And I cry as I write the words I’d hoped would never be true:
My grand-boy is loosing his hearing.
Six years old and full of bright hope. He’s strong like his name, analytical and logical like his Uncle Johnny. A unique and magnificent representation of a part of God, made in His image, purposed to bring His likeness to a world of hoping, needing people.
Those horrible words again: progressive hearing loss…
I grieve deeply for the loss I know too well. For all the memories of sounds and songs he will never hear:
The dance of rain on the rooftop.
The song of birds, all those trills, squawks, whistles, warnings.
The crackle and hiss of fire in the fireplace.
The lap of water against the seashore.
I’ve cried and prayed and breathed deep through the crush in my chest. And all the while, Elizabeth feels no fear, none. Her words to the family:
“I was reminded this morning that God watched His own son suffer and He knows the grief we feel. Duke is His child too and He knows the greater redemption being worked out in this ugly and painful thing. We have peace as we grieve but there is deep sadness too…”
And now— finally—I know exactly what those kind-hearted, less-than-ideally-worded phrases were meant to convey.
Now that I have heard God speak into my silence…
Now that I have embraced what I didn’t want…
Now that I know that God takes what the enemy of our souls tries to steal and He turns it into something good, something beautiful…
All of it is worth it… if I get to forge the way for one of my own to follow so he wouldn’t have to be first.
All of it is worth it… if Elizabeth won’t have to live in fear of the future because she’s seen my worst nightmare come true and now she knows it’s okay, doable, hard, but not tragic.
All of it is worth it… if this family of mine knows that even this— even DEAFNESS— becomes mysteriously beautiful and good in the hands of the Father.
All of it is worth it if my pain has paved a path that will lead my grand-boy to the heart of the Father.
I see the kindness of God now, how He allowed my sons and daughters to watch my story. Elizabeth saw my brokenness. She lived with the embarrassment of not understanding. She felt the weight of my deafness… and yet somehow the Spirit is breathing courage into her soul as she helps her own son adapt to a world with fading sounds.
Every missed melody, every frustrating conversation, every embarrassing, feeling-stupid moment is worth it. For the Savior… for the women who read my words carved out of silence and know that I know what their pain feels like too… and now for Duke.
From a heart that is humbled and in awe of a God who weaves magic in the midst of sorrow,
P.S. I would be so honored to pray for you who are trying to find your way through the often hazardous grieving of hard things. You know I’d love to know the story, but if you’re not there yet, just your name will let me know to pray.
P.S.S For an incredibly wise, dangerously heart-wrenching sermon on the why of suffering, listen to Dominic Done’s message (the teaching pastor at our church)