I once had someone pray that I would stop going deaf.
In today's airbrushed, Photoshopped world, flaws can be erased in just a few keystrokes. My hearing loss was something I wanted to disappear. So when a person of great faith prayed for my healing, tears welled in my eyes. I was overwhelmed at the possibility that I wouldn't have to wear hearing aids to have a normal conversation, or that my children could ask me a question one time and I would understand them.
Some may be skeptical of the healing-prayer belief. I was. Doctors and medicine contribute to healing, but people who pray?
In the spring of 2007, I attended a worship service with a lifelong friend. She was concerned about my hearing struggles, as I was. She caught the sounds I missed during our time together. The jokes I didn't laugh at. The conversation I pretended to hear even when I didn't have a clue. My young boy's comments from the back seat of the car while we drove, his repeated use of the words "stupid mom."
"That's enough," my friend said to him. "You don't talk to your mom that way."
"What did he say?" I was oblivious, and it embarrassed me.
At the worship service, she walked with me to the altar for prayer time. A pastor met us there.
"What can I pray for you?" he said.
Somewhere, the Bible talks about the proper way of praying for a person's healing. I didn't know the exact verse, but the pastor did.
"'Is any one of you sick?'" he read from James in the New Testament. "'The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.'"
My flawed ears made me sick at my stomach. How could I be a good mom without the ability to hear my kids' words clearly? How many times had I been called "stupid mom" from behind my back? How many times had I let my boy say that to my face without realizing it?
I allowed the pastor to pray for my ears to be healed, for the ability to hear my children. Tears welled, then slid down my cheeks. I didn't wipe them away.
When the prayer ended, the pastor motioned for me to remove my hearing aids. He then asked me to repeat his words without reading his lips. Yeah, right. How can a lipreading mom do that?
The pastor covered his mouth and spoke to me. The words I heard were, "What state do you live in?"
After I answered him, he and my lifelong friend exchanged hopeful gazes. I'd answered correctly.
A week later, I went to my audiologist for a hearing test. I wanted documented proof that something had changed in my hearing ability. After sitting in the listening booth and responding to beeps and spoken words via headphones, I waited for the test results.
Something had changed with my ears. I could hear the highest frequency sounds to which I had been deaf the week before.
I had been healed. It was a miracle. I wasn't deaf anymore. Really? WOW.
A year later, I sat in the same hearing booth. Something had changed again with my ears. I wasn't sure if it was an ear infection or hormonal changes during my third pregnancy or noise exposure, but I couldn't hear the highest frequency sounds anymore. I thought my brain was playing tricks on my ears. How could I be deaf to sound, healed, and then deaf again?
Regardless, the test indicated what I feared. The hearing gain I had made after being prayed for was gone. Just like that.
I had other people pray for my ears. I prayed for my ears. I pleaded with God, read, and reread verses about prayer in the Bible. I dreamt about not having hearing loss and wrote about it in my journal.
Each year, my hearing tests revealed more hearing loss. Had I imagined someone had prayed for me and I had actually been healed?
In discussing this experience with one of my hard-of-hearing friends, she offered this perspective: "Healed or not, you haven't changed. You are and will always be you."
Healed or flawed: which do I prefer? Somedays, I want to be free of hearing loss, particularly when my kids scream to get my attention because I can't hear them clearly. Sometimes I want to be deaf when they yell!
I decided to take a daytime walk by myself along a wooded nature trail. Pretty risky in this day and age to stroll solo. It was one of those busy family weekends when all I craved was two hours of solitude. So I turned to my husband and pleaded. "The best thing you can give me right now is the gift of childcare. Would you take the kids for a bit?"
Normally when I'm in the great outdoors, I prefer to take my hearing aids off. The sound of wind blowing through my behind-the-ear hearing devices unnerves me. 'WHOOSH' is the most excruciating white noise. I must've been in a hurry to become one with nature, or I didn't want to walk alone without a way to hear well. Either way, I had both hearing aids in when I pulled into the parking lot of a local nature center.
As soon as my flip-flops hit the trails (not the best hiking footwear, but I was in a hurry for my solitude), I heard a series of beeps in my right ear. Then silence. One of my hearing aid batteries had died, which meant I could only hear out of my left ear. I walked with caution since I now only heard half of what lurked in the trees, and my thin-soled shoes struggled on gravel paths. Occasionally, my left ear caught the rustling of tree leaves, whooshing wind, or other hikers chatting as they sped by in their Nike best. It was enough environmental sound to put me at ease and not worry about personal safety.
All was peaceful. I could breathe deeply, reflect. Twenty minutes of the walk were spent not walking, but gazing into a shallow creek. I gazed at a small fish swimming amid rocks and murky water. I was tempted to dive in with the guppy, but then noticed wind-blown garbage mixed with some of those rocks and started walking again.
On my way back to the parking lot, my ears began hallucinating. I heard children laughing and squealing far away into the trees. I stopped to listen, and the chatter ceased. My flip-flops took off again, and the banter continued. I hadn't passed any walkers since before the guppy creek, and I had a ways to go before hitting the parking lot where folks surely congregated. The hooting and hee-hawing sounded like my kids, who were at home with their daddy four miles away. Was my one working hearing aid that powerful?
Standing in front of dense foliage, I stood and observed anything living and moving. Flying objects, like tiny airplanes, darted in and out of the tops of trees. They moved effortlessly and blared their sirens with each descent. "HEE! HEE! HAW! HAW!"
The tiny flying things were painted deep blue and velvety gray. No hallucination. Just beautiful bluejays and robins, singing and soaring amid treetops.
For the first time since my hearing loss diagnosis 10 years before, I could hear squawking and hooting, shrill whistling and soft sopranos. The symphony of birds. At least in my left ear.
I've had the experience of being both hearing and deaf. Some would favor the former life, but I prefer the path I am currently on. Born hearing, now hard of hearing, mom of three healthy children.
I appreciate all that I can hear through my hearing aids: birds singing, my little ones laughing, the wind whooshing. Even without my hearing devices in my ears and with the reality that I am slowly going deaf, I feel gratitude.
My ears don't control what my heart can hear.