Well, that’s just rude!
I looked around to make sure that I hadn’t said the words out loud. I hadn’t. No matter. I thought them, which seems to me to be the same thing.
I had just exited the worship center at church to run an errand between services. Walking down the sidewalk, I had approached the little elderly lady, who was headed toward the center I had just left. As I usually do, I said a cheery word or two of greeting.
She didn’t respond. At all.
Keeping her head down toward the sidewalk, she walked on past.
That’s odd. The white-haired lady’s appearance reminded me almost of my own grandmother. To look at her, one would think that she would be a sweet, kind person. Yet, there it was.
My words of greeting fell on deaf ears.
I would learn the truth of those words very soon.
Half an hour later, as I strode up the ramp at the rear of the stage and stood at the microphone to lead worship for the second service, my concentration was broken when I saw her sitting on the front row. Directly in front of her was a young lady, seated with her back to me, her hands moving vigorously in the air as the customary welcome to the congregation was concluding.
My words of greeting fell on deaf ears!
The sweet, elderly lady is, in fact, deaf. She wasn’t rude at all, she just had no idea that I had spoken to her.
There was little time to consider the shame at my earlier internal churlishness. Worship time had started. I had a job to do.
I have stood on that stage many Sundays. There have been more times than I can count when the spirit in the place was transformed as we have sung the old hymns and the new worship songs, one after another. I have mistakenly taken credit for the transformation myself on more than one occasion.
Not on this day…
I went through the mechanics of leading. Musically, I suppose it was passable. Still, I know there is more required in worship—something other than any emotion or feeling I can muster on my own.
As we sang, I found myself glancing again and again at the little deaf lady. Her rapt attention was on the young lady who faced her, signing the lyrics to the songs. I smiled to myself as I thought about the helpfulness of the young lady, to aid the lady in participating with the songs which she could not hear. In some ways, it seemed such a futile effort.
But, as my eyes returned again to the pair, those hands moving in the air seemed to me to take on a symbolism that went much further than just the words. Then I realized, with a start, that the old saint herself was signing along with the young lady.
My eyes shifted to the children standing nearby. They weren’t watching the lyrics up on the wall behind the musicians on the stage anymore; they were watching the two ladies. Several of the young girls were mimicking the sign language themselves—not in the way that children often do when I conduct music, making fun—but they wanted to understand, wanted to be a part of what was happening there on the front row.
The hearing-impaired lady was no longer even looking at her young interpreter, but was standing and signing the words to the song, looking for all the world as if she heard the music into the depths of her soul. Hands and arms moving joyously in the air, she too sang the song of worship as we did.
Her face beamed.
Some moments are full of profound clarity. This was one of those moments for me.
I didn’t lead worship on that morning.
A little deaf lady did.
Oh, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the folks there missed it.
But, I tell you, I didn’t.
The little deaf lady, who can’t carry a tune in a bucket, showed me how to worship.
I’m wondering. What kind of handicap do I have that keeps me from accomplishing the tasks I know are mine to do? Why is it that I’m still hanging around, not meeting the challenges?
My excuses hang in the air and then, like the passing breeze, just evaporate.
The little deaf lady hears music. In the depths of her soul, she hears music.
I’m convinced of it. I didn’t ask her if she did, but that kind of emotion—that kind of joy—doesn’t just happen on its own.
For just a few moments as I considered tonight, I felt the promise, the expectation of a day that is coming. On that day, the imperfections and limitations of this earth and these bodies of clay will be swept away and we will be as our Creator intended. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
I practiced with the worship team at my church tonight. The only problem is, I have managed to lose my voice today. The morning started out as it usually does, with customers and telephone calls, and no sign of a problem. But, as the morning waned, I felt a tightness in my throat and I grew hoarse.
By this evening, I could hardly speak above a whisper (a blessing to the Lovely Lady, I’m sure) and knew that it was futile to go to practice. I went anyway, to be sure I was familiar with the songs we’ll sing on Sunday morning.
I didn’t intend to sing a note.
I couldn’t keep quiet. Raspy, croaky tones, barely discernible as music are what came from my mouth.
It didn’t matter. I stomped my foot in rhythm to the music and thoroughly enjoyed the time, all the while seeing that dear saint’s face in my mind.
I saw her as she sang…
At the top of her hands.
The day is coming when she’ll hear—really hear—the voice she longs to hear, that of the One who gave her the song. She’ll listen to heaven’s choir, and she’ll smile, knowing that it’s the same song she’s heard all along, deep down inside of her.
The day is coming when the blind will see, the crippled will run, and the deaf will sing at the top of their lungs.
I guess we’ll just have to make do with what we’ve got.
I’m thinking that it’s enough.
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain.
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees,
I will rise.
(from I Will Rise ~ Tomlin/Giglio/Reeves/Maher)
Hear this, oh foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.
(Jeremiah 5:21 ~ ESV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.