Head splitting whistles - shriller-than-usual Nazi sirens that threaten to root out and arrest the innocent - aggressively fill up space, forcing other sounds into submission. They terrorize like rabid dogs intent upon attack, demanding nothing less than complete surrender.
What ARE these whistles?
Has back-feed in a sound system gone berserk? Has some noisy toy fire truck gotten stuck in the “on” position?
Patience, patience. Sometimes answers come slowly.
… I’ll tell you …
All right, here’s my explanation.
Every day of my life, twenty-four hours every day and seven days a week, I live with an inner terrorist – a noise the medical community calls “tinnitus” which is something akin to Chinese water torture, only auditory. I constantly hear whistling noises, although no one else can hear them. They’ve been active within the confines of my skull in one form or another for thirty-seven of my fifty-nine years.
When this uninvited visitor first appeared I thought crickets from a Midwestern hay field had shown up in the mountains of Colorado. Unsatisfied with a life of mediocrity, over time the crickets became louder. Their maturing voices grew hoarse, rough, and insistent.
It was only the beginning.
One night years later I lay in bed and stared at tree shadows stretching across the ceiling while re-thinking an article I’d read. “Sometimes people go crazy – even commit suicide – when their tinnitus becomes unreasonably loud and grating.” Communication was already excruciatingly difficult since the noises in my head masked many speech sounds, particularly consonants. What next?
Time passed and the noise magnified. I cried out to God: “It’s too loud; too shrill! Take this away, Lord! Heal me!”
Friends grimaced their condolences and patted me on the back. A few confessed their own versions of suffering and offered sympathy. Prayer partners anointed and prayed over me. I begged God for healing. I feared insanity.
Once while despairing in the midst of a meltdown, the noise seemed insufferable. I cried out to God again: “How can I survive this?” The same question peppered the throne room of heaven on numerous days and nights. “How, how HOW?”
I had no choice but to respect His right to remain silent.
Years passed. The escalating, torturous tones threatened to drown out the world around me, crush my spirit, and deposit me in a garbage heap of disintegrating sorrow. Could there be a turning point – a breakthrough? Was I doomed?
For a long time I’d hoped for healing but also resisted the noise. I’d held it at arm’s length, tried to run from it. Suddenly the truth jumped out of hiding. God allowed this unwanted intruder! Must I accept and even embrace it as my own? If so, Lord, give me grace!
The whistling noises continued to diversify in pitch and intensify in volume. Even the latest-and-greatest technologically superior hearing aids couldn’t compensate adequately. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, I began to seek a new personal goal: supernatural hope that would match the intensity of my trial.
Tinnitus was not an enemy sniper assigned to constantly shoot my heart full of holes so I might slowly bleed to death internally – the slow, agonizing demise of the hopeless. Rather, it was an agent of change, a messenger offering to lead me to new insights, new dependence on my heavenly Father, and then into ministry as a Good Samaritan.
Would I respond?
I began to read scriptures and interpret emotions and everyday circumstances through the lens of hope. Transformation meant being mysteriously and holistically “in Christ;” sharing in His suffering and redemption.
The outstretched wing of my Father sheltered me. I learned it was possible to be fractured in body but whole in spirit.
I’ve lived with noise in my head for almost four decades now, and marvel at the current measure of grace poured out for me – a cascading, powerful waterfall of love and mercy, enough to surpass the intensity of my trial. Every day the chronic onslaught of raucous chatter continues in my head, I am tempted by anguish, and I succumb to the greater power: God’s grace.
Someday the noise will disappear into thin air when I pass from this life to the next, if not before. Until then I live with patient endurance and hope, running the race set out before me.
“ … hope that is seen is no hope at all … But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:24b-25
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