Updated: Oct 31, 2019
In his later years of life, my father wore hearing aids.
They were not as technically improved as the ones on the market today. High-frequency sounds from his hearing aid would often annoy people on the other side of the room. But dad didn’t seem to notice — or care.
On more than one occasion, my mother would be speaking to him, and he couldn’t hear what she was saying. I would loudly say to him: “Dad: Turn your hearing aid up! Mom’s talking to you.” He would slowly smile and softly speak to me (making certain mom couldn’t hear):
“Son, sometimes it’s nice not being able to hear.” We laughed!
The memory of my father has prompted me to ask myself: “Am I hearing impaired?”
It’s common for people who are aging to have some degree of hearing loss. We begin to notice that others speak softly, or that the acoustics in restaurants often elevate the noise level, blocking out the voice of one sitting across the table from us.
However, a physical audio loss isn’t the only hearing impediment we face.
Prophets of old continually challenge Israel to “hear the word of the Lord.” God was speaking, but Israel wasn’t listening. However, Israel’s hearing impairment was not a physical problem. It was a matter of the heart. They chose not to hear.
God instructs Isaiah to tell the people:
“Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” - Isa 6:9-10
Go ahead. Pretend that you hear. Convince yourselves that you perceive. Ignore the reality that your heart is dull, your ears are heavy, and your eyes are blind!
Isaiah recognizes that to hear requires more than our ears. So did Jesus. When the disciples questioned the Lord as to why he spoke in parables, Jesus acknowledges Isaiah:
“This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case, the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.’”
Jesus reminds us that hearing engages our heart, ears, and eyes.
As a spiritual director, I’m trained and certified to listen to others. My role is not to give direction, but to help those whom I listen to, incline their ears, eyes, and heart toward God — who is always present and speaking.
The image of an “inclined ear” suggests a person who leans over closely for the purpose of hearing. It’s a picture of one who comes close to make sure that they do not miss what’s being said.
That’s what God desires of us. He wants us to come close so we won’t miss what he’s saying —and so that our soul will live: “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…” (Isaiah 55:3).
I’m thankful that technology is continuously providing us with options for hearing impairments. I’m more grateful that God continually invites me to listen.
Perhaps it’s time for me to check my hearing!