Understanding People

John 14:27 “27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (ESV)

I recently attended a class at church. We were asked to share our greatest fear. Mine is the fear of not understanding what people say or sign. Why? Since I am hearing-impaired, almost deaf, I struggle to understand people. I am challenged with understanding the signs of my Deaf friends. I am also challenged with understanding my hearing friends or family. I am not native Deaf and my primary language is English. Somehow, being bilingually fluent escapes me. I am not like people who can be fluent in many languages. I am often afraid and without peace.

Conversations with one hearing person is okay, and with two, maybe okay.  Because conversations shifts, I can misunderstand and fall behind. Add more people and you have groups. I tend to fall behind often in groups because of conversation shifts. Shifts happen when people take turns leading, or interrupt, the conversation. With Deaf friends I also sometimes don’t understand their signs. Hearing people don’t realize I hear with understanding only if I am also reading their lips. I can ask people to repeat or I can ask questions. But that would be often, and time-consuming. So I tend not to ask if I don’t “get it” the first time. A bad habit rooted in pride and, yes, being afraid and without peace.

The good thing about blogging is I can read what is written. I am more comfortable and more at peace. I see every word and there is no need for me to ask to repeat or clarify. I can focus on what was said and not on finding out what was said. I am less afraid with using the written word. I can read the Bible and really understand it, but I struggle to follow a sermon at church.

Many years ago my parents hired a Speech Therapist to come to our home and teach me how to speak clearly. I have a funny memory of learning how to say the word, “supermarket”. My therapist would slowly enunciate the word with exaggerated lip movements. She would show me how to shape my tongue to make certain sounds. After the therapist left, I asked my mother if other people talked like her. SU-per-MAR-ket!

My first book was given to me many years ago by my Speech Therapist. It was a book about Abraham Lincoln, who became the 16th President of the United States. His life’s story is one of triumph over many obstacles. He was a man not afraid to work hard, and willing to do many things, even becoming President. He also died while serving his country as President. Reading that book taught me the value of hard work and having goals in life.

Jesus died too. He died to make a way for people to know God. Jesus said I should not let my heart be afraid. I should be at peace. Whatever the circumstances of my life, I don’t need to be afraid. He gives me peace. I should not fear signing or talking with Deaf and Hearing friends and family. I need to let them help me to understand. Maybe pride is the root of my fear. I can blog and write, but I can also have relationships with more people if I don’t fear signing or talking with people.

The class at church is teaching on evangelism. That means to learn how to share the Good News with other people. Too many people in the world have not heard the Good News. God asks us to share his Good News about Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. And, ironically, like Moses of the Old Testament, I was thinking I am not equipped to do evangelism. Indeed, to communicate with others, in person, is my greatest fear. Yet we are called to tell others the Good News.

I am less afraid to do this in print or over the internet. I can read and understand every word, and I hopefully write clearly enough. The class will teach me how to understand other people and know where they are coming from. To answer their questions. It will also teach me how not to be afraid to communicate, and to talk about Jesus. Teach me how to share of myself and my experiences so others can benefit. In the meantime, God will help me to overcome my fears about communicating in person without being afraid. Why? Jesus because said so, and he gives me peace. I call that a win-win!

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