When you have a child and they begin to grow, you watch carefully for signs that they can see and hear and respond normally and without deficiency. As a parent you watch to see that your baby responds to the sound of your voice and expression. Each stage of development is carefully observed and evaluated. It wasn’t until my son was about three that I began to worry about his hearing. I would call to him as he walked away from me and he did not turn at the sound of my voice; or I would give him a list of instructions and he would get to the first and then seem to forget the rest. In my concern, I took him to the pediatrician to have his ears checked. I was relieved and a bit aggravated when the doctor turned to my son and said, “The jig is up sonny, there is nothing wrong with your ears.”
I have a grandfather who began to lose his hearing when he was in his early fifties. The television was always blaring when we entered his house. As his hearing degenerated, he became more and more detached from the rest of the family and in fact the world around him. I began to conclude, even as a teen, that it would be worse to lose your hearing than a limb or eyesight. At least if you lost your mobility, you could still communicate with the world around you, I proposed.
In my son’s case, his hearing was not impaired, it was a matter of attentiveness. In my grandfather’s it was a gradual loss of ability. In either case, their ears were not functioning at their full capacity.
I find that as I am aging I do not hear as well as I used to. If I am not facing the person who is speaking to me that I miss the words and the meaning of their message. To be honest, I can be standing face to face with someone and not catch a word that they are saying. I find myself apologizing, “I am sorry, what did you say that your name was?” or “Did you say that your husband was a comedian?” Listening is a tricky thing isn’t it? It isn’t just a matter of hearing, it is an active participation engaging both ears and mind. It takes concentration and intention.
Why all this banter about hearing or listening you might ask. (Or perhaps you have already tired of this subject and have turned your attention to something else.) It seems that the Bible has a lot to say about having ears that do not hear and eyes that do not see. It is not just a problem facing the 21st century of earphones and iPods, cell phones and loud music. There has been a problem with the our hearing since the beginning of time. The age-old question comes to my mind, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree int he garden?'” (Gen. 3:1-2) When my child comes back to me and says, “You didn’t tell me that I couldn’t – fill in the blank”, I realize that this problem of hearing involves listening and understanding. Jesus says in Matthew chapter 13, that our hearts have become calloused, that we hardly hear with our ears and have closed our eyes. It is easy to see this lack of acknowledgment or understanding in our children, but much more humiliating to acknowledge the truth of these words in ourselves.
I see that in my own case, my selfishness has been the cause of my calloused heart. Rather than inconveniencing myself with the needs of others, I continue looking straight ahead with my blinders on busily going about my own business. But perhaps this habit of looking away and stopping up my ears to the concerns of others around me will permanently impair my senses. My heart will become hard and thick and unmoved by the hurts and feelings of others and more importantly to the prompting and voice of God. The fear of isolation from the source of my very life causes me to turn and repent. I want to hear your voice Lord! I want to see things as You do! Help me to listen, to pay attention, to be moved to tears and to action.
Matthew chapter 13 continues with the following words of encouragement to me and hopefully to you as well…
“Otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”
“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”