As a dad of six, I know that I am not objective in assessing my own kids. Often, I see them in too favorable of a light, and I find myself measuring our family room mantle to see if it will hold six Nobel Prizes, six Olympic medals, and six Academy Awards at the same time.
But sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes I am too conservative in my assessment of possibilities… not bold enough in my vision for what my kids can become. Sometimes God needs to remind me that His plans for my kids will often exceed my wildest dreams for them.
Our daughter Mia has bilateral microtia – meaning that neither of her ears formed properly. She has working inner ears, but underdeveloped external ears and no ear canals for the sound to travel. Like a person plugging their ears tightly with a finger, she can hear loud sounds but that is about all. (There are days when it seems like our other kids have a similar condition… often when there are chores or homework that need to be done.)
As a result of her condition, Mia had no language skills when we met her in China. And from that very first day, we (and I use the word “we” in a very generous sense since Anne did the vast majority of the work) began the journey to teach Mia how to speak.This involved countless visits to the otolaryngologist (which is a fancy word for “ear doctor”), the audiologist, the speech therapist, the hearing therapist (didn’t even know that existed), and daily practice at home. For perspective on the gravity of her condition, we visited two deaf schools, concerned that she might never become verbal. Our journey eventually involved a surgery to enable use of a BAHA hearing aid… a marvel of modern technology that has been key to restoring some sound for Mia.
It also involved countless hours of prayer. We prayed desperately that Mia would learn how to speak. We prayed over every consonant sound and the hours of therapy required to learn and master each one.
And it worked. Progress was slow at times, but there was progress. Mia began to understand others… and they began to understand her. Over time, Mia found her voice.
When I read the Bible, there are times when I really wish I could have seen Jesus perform a miracle up close. I tell myself that my faith would be so much stronger if I were there when He healed the blind or the lame or the deaf.
But I recognize now how foolish that wish must sound. For while it would be cool to have been there when the events of Mark 7 took place and the people exclaimed “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak!”, why do I fail to recognize that same miracle in the life of my daughter Mia… because that is exactly what happened.
What we did not understand at the time is that He was only getting started.
With this as background, try to picture our family at the dinner table last December. We were asking each child about their day, and Mia made a comment about standing at the microphone during rehearsal for the school Christmas Show.
As background, you should know that our family members have never been invited to the microphone during a vocal concert. As I established earlier, our children have many gifts…but singing is not one of them. We are not good singers. Even “Happy Birthday” can be a surprisingly painful experience. (In high school, I was given the ONLY non-singing part in the Musical… and I am a much better singer than Anne.)
As a result, we do not tend to make a big deal about Christmas Shows. Our children wear their (probably hand-me-down) seasonal sweater and stand relatively still on one of the risers in the background as an anonymous member of the choir.
So you can imagine our surprise when Mia mentioned standing at the microphone.
Our first thought was that she must be reading a verse or an excerpt from the Christmas Story. Given our concerns that she would never speak, I made a mental note to invite the Grandparents and bring my videocamera.
With this assumption, we excitedly asked, “Are you reading something on the microphone, Mia?”
To which she responded, “No. I’m singing.”
Tip: When your child makes the varsity team or gets a part in the play or a solo in the Christmas Show, good parents do not tend to respond with a doubtful exclamation of “Really?” By this measure, Anne and I are not good parents.
Once we closed our gaping mouths, one of us was able to form a more appropriate question, “Mia… could you sing for us right now?”
To be totally honest, the question probably reeked of doubt. Maybe she was kidding?
Unfazed by our question, Mia licked her chili spoon clean, converted it into a microphone, and sang the opening chorus of her solo:
“In the beginning was the Word
And it was with God and was God
Before an eye had seen or ear had heard
There was the Word”
And it was beautiful. I don’t mean, “Isn’t it beautiful that our daughter with hearing loss is trying to sing?”…
I mean, “Our daughter can sing!”
In all those years of praying that she would be able to speak, we never dreamed of praying that she would be able to sing. Fortunately, the size of God’s grace is not limited to the boldness of our prayers.
We wanted her to speak, but God wanted her to sing.
Good call, God. Good call.
And in that one moment, we became HUGE fans of the Christmas Show… and I made room on my mantle for a Grammy.
Isaiah 35:2-7 (Message)
Tell fearful souls,
“Courage! Take heart!
GOD is here, right here,
on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”
Blind eyes will be opened,
deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
the voiceless break into song.