Sometimes, they’re incredibly annoying.
But I need them.
And frankly, it can be a little frightening when I realize just how much I do.
So, please be patient with me while I make the astounding logical leap from hearing aids to the Gospel of John.
I’ve had some hearing loss ever since I was a boy, the result of childhood illness. It didn’t help that I neglected to protect my hearing as an adult. And now, I wear hearing aids.
I don’t wear them all the time, because as I said, they can be terribly annoying. They hoot or crackle at sudden noises. My own voice echoes in my ears when I speak. And if I try to whistle a tune, it sounds like someone else is whistling with me, a half-beat behind and slightly off-key. It’s jarring.
But when I do wear them, I’m forcefully reminded of how bad my hearing really is. At the end of the day, when I take them out, I have a sudden sensation as if my ears are full of cotton. The world is reduced to mumbles.
I also wear glasses, but I would never presume to live without them. I suppose there was a time when glasses were a new experience and I had to adjust to the idea of being a bit blind. Now I just take them for granted. But hearing aids are new to me, and I’m having to adjust to the idea of being a bit deaf.
So…what does any of this have to do with the Gospel of John?
As we saw in the last post, the opposition of light and darkness is a continual theme in John, beginning with these words: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:5). As we’ll see in an upcoming post, John also says, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (vs. 9, NRSV).
What happens when light comes to darkness?
It’s not always welcome. Light exposes darkness for what it is. Or, perhaps, for what it isn’t — even if darkness is the opposite to light, it is not therefore its equal.
I didn’t know how blind I was until I started wearing glasses. Nor did I realize how deaf I was until I started wearing hearing aids. When I take them off, I jokingly warn my wife: “I’m going deaf now.” But at some level, it’s no laughing matter. I don’t like being reminded of my fragility and brokenness, not even in this small way.
Here at the beginning of John’s gospel, we need to ask ourselves: how much of what we take to be sight is blindness? How much of what we take to be hearing is deafness? Light shines in the darkness: do we welcome it?
The good news is that the light has not been overcome (the word literally means “to take hold of”). Darkness didn’t triumph over light at creation, nor even at the cross, though at first it may have seemed so to Jesus’ followers.
But there is still the question of whether we and the rest of the human race will welcome and follow the light.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put on my hearing aids. Because I’m deaf without them.