when you need to hear God in the midst of your hard place
… as we’ve sat in hospitals this week, waiting for specialists and doctors and results, I’ve thought a lot about Diane Comer — Diane lives in a deep quietness… Because she is deaf. This is her story of losing her hearing, of nearly losing her faith, of coming precariously close to losing all she held dear in the process. And it is the story of how God picked her up out of the pit she so heedlessly dug herself into, brushed away the filth of her faithlessness, and set her feet on solid rock. On Jesus. Himself. It is a story of her complete and utter failure…and of God’s relentless faithfulness in spite of her. Most of all, this is a story of learning to listen in the silence. It’s a deeply humbling grace to welcome Diane to the farm’s front porch today…
After those first months of agonizing struggle to surrender to God the doctor’s prognosis of encroaching deafness, I found myself reveling in the intimacy God had given to me in my brokenness.
I was learning, and growing, and delighting in what I was hearing as He taught me to listen.
But my ears grew ever more deaf.
When my audiologist Janna, tested and retested my hearing every few months, she seemed to understand the roiling, just-under-the-surface emotions that often left me white-faced and anxious.
Nevertheless, as warmhearted as she was, she was not hesitant to confront me if she knew I was bluffing.
On one particular day, as I strained to hear her words and repeat them back to her (even if I had to make them up), she pushed back from her perch outside of the sound booth, sat down directly in front of me, and handed me the test results.
More loss. A lot more loss.
That graph paper, filled with x’s where sound registered and blank spaces where no sounds penetrated, caused all the peace created by my life-changing encounter with God to begin wobbling precariously.
God telling me He wasn’t going to heal me was one thing— this free fall into deafness was quite another.
I wanted to sob, to wail. I could hardly hold myself erect.
But I can do this, I told myself. I will do this. I will be strong.
With discipline and dignity, I swallowed my disappointment, shook off my panic, and pulled my pain in close.
Janna wasn’t fooled.
“Diane, what did I just say?” she asked.
Feeling the heat of embarrassment creep up my neck, I searched for words that wouldn’t come.
She looked at me like a teacher catching a naughty student passing notes in class.
“Diane, do not bluff!”
Her words hung between us in the suffocating room. I could feel my face flame. Caught in my fakery, I glossed over the awkwardness with banal chatter, mumbling and bumbling inane words to fill the silence.
She wasn’t about to let me off the hook.
God had a lesson for me to learn that day that would resonate in my soul for the rest of my life.
“Diane, you must be honest. When you don’t hear what I’m saying, you have got to ask me to repeat myself. Do. Not. Pretend. Never, ever fake it with me!”
I gulped back the tears threatening to stream down my reddened face and apologized profusely.
“I’m sorry, I was getting what you said . . . just missed the last few words . . . I understood almost everything . . . really, I’m trying!”
But Janna would have none of it. Pretending isn’t trying, a lesson I would learn over and over again in the ensuing years.
Pretending is simply pushing away the truth to hide in thinly veiled obscurity.
We pretend when we don’t want to see.
We pretend when we don’t want to be seen, like when my children played hide and seek by covering their eyes. If I don’t look at you, you won’t see me.
Slowly, insistently, God was trying to peel my hands away from my eyes. To strip away all the pretense that peppered my responses and show me that what He wants from me is unadorned honesty.
Like Janna, who demanded that I be utterly transparent with her so she could help me adjust to my hearing loss, God insists on artless transparency to enable Him to mold me into a woman of grace and beauty, a woman who listens and hears and knows Him down deep.
No plotted out prayers.
No hands raised in worship with fists clenched in rebellion.
No plastic “disciplined” response to reality.
I once listened as a woman described her “date with God.” First, she told a roomful of women, “I do my hair and put on makeup in preparation. I want to meet God at my best . . .”
Are you kidding me? Meet my God with makeup on, lest He see me as I truly am?
Most mornings I stumble out of bed in rumpled pj’s, detangling my confused brain as I prepare my coffee as quickly as my sluggishness will allow. I drop things, read words backwards in that early morning drowsy dyslexia. My breath is rancid, goo catches at the corners of my eyes, I am a hair-gone-wild mess.
Through Janna’s admonishments to stop bluffing, I began to see that God doesn’t ask me to fix my appearance, outside or inside, to have an intimate encounter with Him. He knows me, and He loves me. Even when I’m a mess.
The only thing He absolutely requires of me, if I am to meet Him face to face, is honesty.
When I confess my flaws, my guilt, and my failures to God, He takes the softest washcloth to my mess and bathes me in beauty. I lean into His warmth, breathing in the scent of Him, wanting more.
From admitting that I lost my temper and shouldn’t have spoken so derisively to my husband again, I progress to shedding all the pride and defensiveness that makes me prickly and resistant to soul intimacy.
I let go of the part of me that pretends to be perfect, the part that keeps missing the point of the cross—which is redemption.
Not simply to wash me clean of my sins, as magnificent as that is, nor to protect me from God’s wrath, as undeserving as I am, but to redeem me from all the mess my sin-infected DNA dictates.
Jesus went after me, all the way up that infamous hill called Calvary, for one reason: to bring me to the Father. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God . . .” (1 Peter 3:18)
When my audiologist pulled me up short by confronting me about my bluffing, she had no way of knowing she’d paved the way for me to stop pretending to God. Or how her honest way of relating would usher me into hearing things I never could have heard as long as I stuck to the hunky-dory good life script I’d insisted on for so long.
To be real is to reveal the shabbiness of who I am today. All the worn down places, the fading beauty, the seams straining in all the wrong places.
When I am honest—no bluffing or posturing or princess play—that is when God draws me in close and speaks to me of all I long to know.
In the silence I have learned that God fills my not-enoughness with all that He is, and that He whispers words –
words of hope and joy, of rest and truth, into my hard-of-hearing soul.
And now I shake my head and wonder why I ever tried to be more than I am.
Diane Comer lives in a cottage in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Married for thirty-seven years, with four children and a passel of grandkids, she is a teacher, a writer, the wife of a pastor, and the co-founder of Intentional, a conference for parents whose great hope is to raise passionate Jesus followers.
Sharing her story of losing her hearing, Diane writes about living in the belief that God invites every woman into an intimacy that will satisfy the cravings of her soul.
Diane’s powerful, just released book, He Speaks In The Silence: finding intimacy with God by learning to listen, tells her story in the wildest hope that those who read her words will lean in — and find the intimacy with God they’ve been listening for. A truly beautiful read — for those who need to hear God in the midst of their hard place.