It was April 30, 2014. I was on a jetBlue flight bound for Seattle. I didn’t realize I was as sick as I was. I actually thought I had beaten what I thought was a small sinus infection the week before. I also didn’t know you aren’t supposed to fly with sinus issues. Why – if there’s serious risk – isn’t that common knowledge?! The pressure from the take-off only had one way out — through my eardrum.
Once I landed, I thought the worst had happened. I thought wrong. When I say I didn’t realize I was as sick as I was, it was a double ear infection that first masked itself as a small sinus cold… so while I thought I was fine, my ears were ready to explode, flight or no flight.
More pain I cannot begin to describe.
A loss in my ability to hear – that would hopefully return… without permanent damage or loss… eventually.
A fishbowl sensation I feared might be my new normal — immensely impacting the ability to have a conversation over meals — but for how long??
Communication is limited in a big way when you lose the ability to hear.
And it’s not just in the hearing, as you might expect. I had dinner with a college friend while in Seattle. I would think I was speaking at a normal volume, but he would constantly be leaning in, as if to say I was speaking at a much LOWER volume than what it sounded like in my head. Though I had a heightened awareness of my hearing loss, I hadn’t thought about it impairing my ability to be heard as well.
Fast forward to April 22, 2015. I wake up with a full blown sinus infection. Alas, I have my routine in the bag to crush sinus infections. It’s the only way I usually get sick. And seeing as how it is a year to the date of my last sinus infection, I thought it would be the same drill. But as Wednesday morning went on, I knew it was different. My throat was destroyed in a way it usually wouldn’t be. Swallowing was a nightmare. Might as well have been glass or gravel. I was grateful for working from home, because most of my work didn’t need verbal communication. I could do design work and social media without having to speak. And if I needed feedback on design work, I just had to request all feedback through text messages or emails.
Still, a year later, I saw firsthand how limited communication can be when you lose the ability to speak.
In any relationship that means anything to you, communication is key.
Feeling heard is important.
Listening is invaluable.
A friend made a joke at my lost voice with “maybe God needed you to be quiet.” As much as she was teasing, it was something I was already contemplating. The problem was, all the other symptoms I had left me pretty useless during this past week. In all my days without talking, I did a lot of sleeping & resting in a way that didn’t exactly leave me open to hearing anything. Was I going to miss it?
That’s when I made the connection — not just the dates of being sick being almost identical — but the implication of the lost abilities (hearing, speaking). You see, in any relationship, that temporary hearing loss was stressful, but it also heightened my awareness. I couldn’t multi-task, which in turn means, I had to give undivided attention. My limitations made me more focused.
Similarly, my voice being lost was painful. It virtually halted any communication that couldn’t be done electronically. That’s hard for someone who is very intentional in their relationships. Hard for someone who hates relying on text messages, emails or social media to talk to friends and family. But it did teach me a lesson in communication and expectations.
However, it didn’t stop there. Healthy communication is dependent on active listening and active speaking. My relationships with loved ones truly rely on our ability to communicate verbally with each other.
But my relationship with God is never dependent on my ability to hear or speak in a physical sense.
Even if my senses or abilities are taken away, it doesn’t change God’s ability to speak to me or my ability to listen & respond. Because God is limitless, I can pray and journal even when I have no voice to speak the words. Further, I can trust the Spirit intercedes on my behalf when my heart is so heavy, it cannot muster up the words. He is in tune with my spirit, He will speak into my heart when my hearing is limited. After all, He wants me to explore Him by any means necessary, not limited to my senses:
— “But from there you will search again for the LORD your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.” – Deuteronomy 4:29
— “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:12-13
— “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” – 1 Chronicles 16:11
— “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” – Lamentations 3:25
— “Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.” – Psalm 34:10
— “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.’” – Psalm 27:8
— “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” – Psalm 37:3-6
— “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
— “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” – Malachi 3:10
Communication with one another may be limited to our own senses & skill sets. Once in a while, it may take being creative, or being more intentional to stay focused on listening & speaking. Gratefully, though, communication with a limitless God is even more limitless. And if I had to experience a season of impaired hearing & a painful reason to keep my mouth shut, it was worth it. I don’t believe God is cruel enough to cause an ear to rupture or a voice box to get infected just to prove a point. But, I trust ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him — even something like temporary loss of a couple of my senses. As much as God loves hearing from us, He wants to be heard as well. And He will use any opportunity — if only we’d listen.