Does this ever happen to anyone else? I’m blowing my hair dry, trying to get my damp locks under key for the day…and then, wouldn’t you know it! There goes my cell phone with its unmistakable ringtone. But when I turn off the deafening dryer to see who’s calling…actually, no one is. I’m hearing a “phantom sound” that really isn’t there. (It’s okay. You can tell me if I’m losing it.)
In his fascinating book, Musicophilia, physician Oliver Sacks writes about “earworms,” those catchy little tunes that stick in your brain and nearly drive you crazy. It seems odd – sometimes it’s easier to “hear” sounds that aren’t really there more than the real ones all around us.
In what is probably one of the world’s worst hypothetical questions, I was once asked, “Which would you rather lose…your vision or your hearing?” That’s like asking, would you rather cut off your right leg or your left leg? I’d like to keep them both, thank you very much! The senses are such amazing, precious gifts. Those of us who still retain all five have reason to be thankful every day. I can’t imagine being blind. But I really can’t imagine not being able to hear my husband’s nightly “I love you-s” or the bright, effervescent giggles of my grandgirls. It’s a very good day when I hear the familiar voices of each of my three grown children as they say “Hi Mom!” on the phone.
Hearing is a two-part process. You need a talker and a listener for it to really work out. Jesus seemed to be emphasizing the importance of “listening beyond the hearing” when He said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” That phrase, oft repeated throughout the Gospels, was the equivalent to someone snapping their fingers and saying, Hey! Pay attention! This is really important! I “hear” God when I read the Bible with an attentive heart, which for me, means having a journal and pen ready.
Psalm 19:1-4 describes how the very skies talk about God and His glory—that their silent words speak about Him in every language on earth. A friend who recently took a trip to Hawaii told me she missed the sounds of the ocean, the birds and even the geckos this time. (I didn’t even know geckos could talk except for the cute little guy on the insurance commercial who speaks with a British accent—cockney, I think.) The reason? Even though her hotel was only one block from the ocean, the busy street below with its horns and sirens, big construction projects, and blaring night life of music, laughter, and shouting all served to literally drown out the voice of nature. The magnificent roaring of the sea was still there but my friend had to find a quieter place in order to hear it clearly.
When it comes to hearing God, I’m convinced that too many of us are so used to hearing our “phantom sounds” (like negative self-talk, worry, and doubt) that we miss the reality of His voice as He speaks. Or maybe like my vacationing friend, we may need to seek quietness in order to hear the purest, most powerful words of truth. We need to silence the little-but-loud sounds (think TV adds, or the dinging “more-email-just-hit-the-inbox” sound) in order to hear the big-but-quiet voice of God.
“Grammy and Papa…shhh!!!” my little granddaughter pleaded earnestly awhile back as she visited us. “What is it Lilia?” we asked. “I hear a song in my head and it’s my favorite!”
Like Lilia, I want to be willing to shhh the external noises around me so I can really hear “my favorite”…God’s voice in my heart.
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