From Profound Deafness To Profound Faith: Our Family’s Story - Warrior Mom Wisdom - Week of February 5
Dear Warrior Moms,
I’m going to copy and paste my testimony that I wrote for my church magazine in 2002. I hope you don’t mind that I take the easy way out, but I don’t want to recreate what I’ve already written. I don’t want to re-spend the emotions when I’ve already spent them. If you are a busy mom with young’ns or teen-age’ns, I know you can appreciate the value of preserving some much-needed energy. And so, I’ll copy and paste my testimony about my son, and then we can move on together from there.
“Can he hear us at all?” I asked the nurse.
The young twenty-something-year-old nurse, Nadia, replied, “No, I’m sorry, he’s profoundly deaf… he’s never heard anything.”
The shock to my heart and the weakness in my knees made me nauseas. I was at Children’s Health Care of Atlanta with my husband of seven years and my 12-month-old son, Jacob. We wondered for quite some time if Jacob had fluid on his ears or if he had fluid on one ear because he didn’t always respond to us. But, most of the time, he did respond, and it never crossed our minds that he never heard a single word that we said to him. We wondered though, why he didn’t flinch at the car horn last month while we all stood in his Grandma Joy’s driveway, so we made the first appointment that would lead to this one: the confirmation of Jacob’s profound deafness.
Looking at my precious son with this new knowledge, that he couldn’t hear me, made my heart well up with tears. I would spend the rest of that day choking back tears and trying not to cough up my heart that seemed lodged in my throat.
Grandma Val was at the house waiting for our six-year old daughter, Faith, to get off the bus from kindergarten, and everyone awaited our arrival from the hospital to report the findings. I dreaded going home; I couldn’t talk. How would I form the words to tell the family that Jacob was deaf? My husband and I drove home in a new silence. Now, the silent hush of the car, the sound of the tires on the road, the quiet radio seemed catastrophically loud to us because, for the first time, we realized that Jacob didn’t even hear silent sounds – car sounds – nice sounds – our voices – he heard nothing. And there was nothing to say - - just tears waiting their eager escape from the corners of our eyes.
Grandma Val and Pappa left shortly after we repeated the news; I was sure they were going home to sit in silence and cry themselves – they were entitled. And then, it was just us: father, mother, brother, sister and a beautiful summery August day in Georgia. Father and sister left to get haircuts because after an hour or so of not knowing what to do, they had to do something. It was my idea for my husband, Brian, and my daughter, Faith, to go get haircuts, because I really needed time alone to cry and talk to God. Brian and Faith seemed relieved to have something to do besides wonder what they were going to do, and I picked up my precious son and put him in his stroller. We would take a walk. It would be up to God to entertain Jacob with passing butterflies and swaying branches so that I could have a moment to ask God one very important question.
I began to push the stroller ever so slowly through the neighborhood, and I began to talk to God silently in my mind because I still didn’t have the ability to form words; my throat was too parched with pain to even verbalize a prayer. “O.K. God, I know from being in the Air Force that when a soldier is in battle he never asks ‘Why?’ because it is a waste of time to ask questions. Questions can cause you to miss the critical moment in battle; it can cost you your life or the lives of those around you. So, I won’t ask that question, ‘Why is my son deaf?’ because I’m sure the answer is much too complicated for me to understand this side of Heaven. But I WANT TO KNOW ONE THING! I want to know what ‘emotion’ is! I can’t stand this emotion; it’s killing me. I can hardly breathe, I can hardly walk, and I can’t even speak because my heart is crushed – I’m so sad, and there are all of these things that we need to do for Jacob: all the testing for cognitive delays, physical therapy for his balance issues, the MRI to see if he’s a candidate for surgery to receive an electric ear (cochlear implant) – oh all of it – I know what we have to do for our son, and I can do it – I CAN! But I need you to eliminate this emotion so that I have the strength to do all that stuff without this chronic heart rendering pain and these endless tears, and this is what I want to know: ‘What is emotion?!’ I don’t need it – it’s in my way; what is it?! You are God, I’m sure you can come up with one word for each letter of emotion that defines it – You’re God – you can do that!” And instantly, I heard the words:
Empty Moments Of Tears Instead Of Non-stop Strength.I stopped dead in my tracks. A new silence surrounded me, and I listened intently for more. ….Kristina, I made you to have emotions, to feel, to write, to help, to carry others’ burdens, to love, to live deeply; go ahead and cry and feel it all, I made you that way; without emotion, you couldn’t write, you wouldn’t hear the poetry that you record, you couldn’t appreciate joy, and I made you to do all those things, but just remember that after the tears, after the pain, I AM your non-stop strength – I AM.
Then, as quickly as God began to speak, the sounds all around me rushed back into my heart and ears. It seemed as if birds and southern crickets picked up their instruments again to join the choir of life that somehow stopped while I was frozen, listening to God. I stood there listening to the sounds of everyday life emerge again - slowly coming out of the silence like a young child walks out of their room after a long much needed slumber. My son, Jacob, tried to inspire the stroller to move as he made noise that only me and God could hear, and I took my first real step of faith. Sure, I was still in the neighborhood walking on manmade cement, but something was different; I was changed, and somehow I knew that this journey of profound deafness was going to be one of profound victory!
Every day was a challenge; every day was hard. We tried hearing aids that frankly, would have been easier to put on a hungry alligator than my 14-month old son. You see, it had to be proven that Jacob did not have any residual hearing before the insurance company would approve the surgery that would enable Jacob to hear through 22 electrodes implanted in his skull inside silicone tubing connected to his auditory nerve (a Cochlear Implant). One early morning while waiting for the insurance approval, I was sitting on my deck, and I went to the Lord in prayer.
“Dear Lord, I know Jacob can hear you. He can’t hear me, but he can hear you. Will you please tell him what he needs to know, explain the world around him, teach him concepts that I can’t, show him things, give him understanding, speak to him, talk to him, guide him. My prayer is that when he does finally hear, all those around him will be amazed at his ability – they will have to acknowledge that You were teaching him and speaking to him all along – even in, and especially in, the silence of deafness, I know he can hear You because one does not need ears to hear God; You speak to the heart; please speak to Jacob’s heart. I’m going to read my Bible until I get confirmation that You are speaking to Jacob; I know he can hear You, but I need confirmation; I’m not going to quit reading, and I’m not going to get up from this spotuntil I read what I need to read: Please God, as Jacob’s mother, I need to hear from You.”
I turned to Psalms and read and read and read until I read the following verse: Psalm 147: He speaketh his word to Jacob. I almost spilled my coffee in pure amazement, and I could go on and on, telling you story after story like that of the times when God revealed to me that He was bigger than my circumstance. I love that verse “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25. But, I’ll be the first to tell you that having faith doesn’t make the storm go away. Oh, no, but it does keep one from falling down and not getting back up. That’s the difference. People with faith fall down like everyone else, but God helps them up every time. Sometimes the stronger your faith is, the more forceful the storm. In fact, even while constantly studying the Bible and praying every day, I still ended up getting shingles.
Receiving the cochlear implant was the easiest thing to do; it was implementing the implant that would be like moving mountains. Jacob needed intense speech therapy to jump-start the hearing part of his brain in order to recognize the relevance of sound. It would take therapy session after therapy session of doing tongue exercises to strengthen his tongue, just to be able to move it– to make his tongue strong enough to touch the back of his top teeth to make a “l” “la” “la” sound and to develop strong enough lungs to blow and maintain airflow for speaking. Jacob spent the first 18 months of his life not making sounds, not using his tongue, not developing air flow patterns for speech, and it would take triple that amount of time to essentially learn the skills that normal hearing children spend years developing. It was a long hard road. I got up at 5 am every day to get Jacob ready for the trip to Atlanta, took him to speech school, went to work, picked him up, and brought him home. Needless to say, I developed shingles. Sometimes, it seemed that I was stronger spiritually than I was physically. One cannot underestimate the challenging combination of spiritual, emotional and physical challenges. All of it took its toll on me. I developed the pain of shingles and wondered how a woman of faith could be subject to such a thing. Had my faith failed me?
I will tell you, “No.” It was a long process, both for my son, for myself and for my family. In the end though, I learned to feed my soul, nourish my body, and replenish my strength through the Word of God, while at the same time acknowledging that it was not up to me to get Jacob what he needed, as I first thought; It was up to God. Once I retired the Wonder Woman tights and cape, I realized it was alwaysup to God, but I had to remind myself of that daily. I felt such an immense responsibility as Jacob’s mother to help him be the best that he could be. But somewhere between shingles and sheer faith, I learned to trust God PROFOUNDLY.
And as much as even I would like to have this testimony end there, as much as I would like to say that after four long years of speech therapy, Jacob was mainstreamed into a regular kindergarten class in the public school system and is doing wonderfully, as much as I would like to ride off into the sunset at that point, there’s more. Jacob started kindergarten at J.C. MaGill Elementary in August of 2003, and September 9, 2003, an eye exam determined that Jacob has Retinitis Pigmentosa and is going blind. One thing I have learned from being in positions of receiving bad news is Idon’t like it! There’s seemingly no-where to go, there’s nowhere to hide: the diagnosis is what it is.
The words came like flaming arrows to my heart. Many people wondered if I would forsake my faith. I can’t deny the fact that I felt like a scared caged animal, wondering if I’d make it through the long nights that followed the bad news. I won’t deny the fact that I “felt” like giving up, but after three long months of wrestling with the pain like Jacob – in the Bible - wrestled with God, I realized something: I could use the bad news as an excuse, or as an Essential Element of a Powerful Testimony for Christ. Sure, I could give up and spend the rest of my life grieving, and who would blame me? Most people would want to die themselves. Socially, I could probably get away with feeling sorry for myself and my son and my family, BUT WHAT A WASTE of the rest of my life in Christ. No, I wanted an Essential Element of a Testimony rather than a mere “excuse.” Besides, I found Psalm 112:7, He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. And I have realized that for every single circumstance that I face, God has given me endless words of encouragement in His Word that fit my very struggle. In fact, I found a verse that is thousands of years old but is still fitting for a 21st Century surgery: the cochlear implant: DOES HE WHO IMPLANTED THE EAR NOT HEAR? DOES HE WHO FORMED THE EYE NOT SEE? (Psalm 94:9)
I remembered that this isn’t my life anyway. It’s a life given to me by Jesus Christ – my life is His life - and He wouldn’t give up and give in – so neither will I. The doctors say that they don’t know how long Jacob has before he is legally blind; they have no way of knowing. All they have is what their physical eyes see and diagnose. As for me and my family, we only know one thing: we named our first born, Faith because of its definition: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.Even this verse gains new meaning for me. This is where my family’s faith hits the fan; this is where reality and reverence collide. Once I said that, I thought I should look up the word reverence. It means having a “PROFOUND AWE AND RESPECT.
The storm rages on, but we are standing right smack in the middle of it, staring at it, not in fear (for there is no future there), but in faith, with reverence to the Most High, for only He can save our son’s sight – just like He saved our souls so long ago, for He is our …..Non-stop Strength, He is our great I AM.
Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see?
Warrior Moms Unite! ™
Kristina Seymour loves to encourage and equip women through the Word and through community. She is the author of The Warrior Mom Handbook, The Warrior Mom Leadership Manual, and The Warrior Wife Handbook; they are available at Amazon.com. Kristina's Bible studies are for women who desire to live by faith in the midst of their everyday lives. She has learned that women can't survive on caffeine and animal crackers alone; women in the Word and in community are united and able to stand firm. To learn more about Kristina, please visit her website, https://kristinaseymour.com/. God loves to share His story of love and grace through us all, and Kristina believes that everyone has a story to tell.