In the hearing test room, you close your eyes once the headphones go on. You quiet your breathing, you try to not even breathe. You strain to listen, striving to be present for each beep. You raise your hand as the sounds come, sometimes confidently and sometimes waveringly, as if your hand would say, "I *think* I heard that beep, but I'm not positive."
The beeps start in your good ear, and you breeze through. Then onto your bad ear, and the stress seeps soundlessly in. You know you're missing some of the beeps, but you try your hardest not to... willing yourself to hear what you can't hear.
Vulnerability meets you in the hearing test room. It's a place where the depth of your weakness is plumbed. A place where your shortcoming is measured, known, revealed.
You emerge at the end with a paper to show-and-tell the doctor, a series of falling dots and lines in bright colours. You bring it, like an offering, into the examination room.
The hearing test: part of my life. I've done it dozens of times in the past year and a half, and I know just what to expect. Before I enter the room I anticipate the procedure and the emotions it will bring: the strained effort, the subtle sense of defeat, the quiet resignation at the end. I had an audiogram this week before my surgery, and the whole cycle ran itself through.
My story is my story, and the hearing test room will always be part of it - even if my hearing improves as a result of my surgeries.
And yes, it's the place that reveals my weakness, where my capacities are assessed and found wanting. But maybe a gift is also hidden for me in the hearing test room. Because the upside-down life says that often last is first and first is last. And it says that sometimes weakness is strength, and strength is weakness.
Fact is, there's extra grace for the "lowly" things of this world; they're holders of special dignity. The flawed parts of us are not to be looked down on but valued and cherished. The place of vulnerability is often where the sacred is ushered in. The cross has taught us nothing if it hasn't taught us this.
The hearing test room, then, is where I learn to welcome my own story in all its complexity, even the broken parts. I learn, despite the discomfort of it, to embrace my own weakness.
I will have other hearing test rooms in this life; I in fact already have them. Ones wholly unrelated to ears or hearing but pertaining to other forms of weaknesses and handicap. More subtle, to be sure, but just as real in displaying my places of lack.
And you have your own hearing test room(s). You have your own record of falling lines and dots, some area in which your weakness is known and laid out. Some area where vulnerability is exposed, and you're tempted toward disappointment or shame. What will you do with it?
And what will I do with mine?
I hope I will take the upside down life at its word. I hope I will celebrate my imperfections, seeing them as pointers toward the goodness and the redemptive nature of my maker. We have a God who specialises in bringing beauty, of all shapes and types, out of the fragile and the broken. Not just theoretically, but actually. May I carry this goodness with me, and walk in the dignity it brings.