Imagine never being able to distinguish music from noise. Every song, every symphony, every note would sound garbled and unpleasant. You would struggle to stifle your laughter when you saw friends making fools of themselves by enthusiastically belting out the words to their favorite songs or gyrating crazily across the dance floor to a beat you couldn’t detect. And what about all the money spent downloading music and the time spent being hooked up to a gadget listening to a bunch of disagreeable sounds strung together? Wouldn’t it all seem rather bizarre?
That was Austin Chapman’s perspective for nearly 23 years. Born deaf, Austin was at peace with his situation. “All music,” he explains, “sounded like trash through my hearing aids.” But that changed the day he tried on a new pair capable of distributing higher frequencies with much greater clarity.
Suddenly the young filmmaker heard sounds he didn’t even know existed—the scraping of his shoe on carpet, the clicking of a keyboard, the whir of a fan. That night, friends decided to give him a crash course on music. He listened in amazement to Mozart, Elvis, Michael Jackson and more.
“When Mozart’s ‘Lacrimosa’ came on, I was blown away by the beauty of it. At one point of the song it sounded like angels singing and I suddenly realized that this was the first time I was able to appreciate music. Tears rolled down my face, and I tried to hide it….I finally understood the power of music.”1
Chapman’s story reminds me of my first experience with God. Before that, most of what I had heard about him sounded garbled and boring, a bit like trash coming through hearing aids. It didn’t move me, but instead left me feeling cold and a bit fearful. What little faith I had developed vanished shortly after I entered college. I did my best to make peace with my godless state as though it were completely natural, the only rational response to life.
But then God disarmed me. He surprised me by being real, by helping me see that the god I had rejected didn’t even exist. In truth, I had not discarded God, but only a caricature formed by my own and others’ misperceptions. When the real God showed up, he changed my life. He upended my world. He blew my mind.
And he keeps doing it. Surprising me, taking me off guard, shattering my false images of him. And that is true for most of us as we live out the Christian life. In our sanest moments, we realize that the most important thing we can do is to pursue God, to hound him even, to prayerfully insist that he give us a clearer revelation of who he is because by doing so we are fulfilling the purpose for which he made us. It is in his presence that life and joy are to be found. Everything else—all the good things that clamor for our worship and insist on our undivided attention are revealed for what they are—beautiful trifles, when compared to God.
- Dylan Stableford, “Deaf man with new hearing aid hears music for the first time, asks, ‘What I should listen to next?’” Yahoo! News, The Sideshow (accessed February 8, 2018) posted on http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/deaf-man-hears-music-first-time-143827917.html
Drawn from Ann Spangler, Praying the Attributes of God