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Spiritual Health

Clean Ears and a Grateful Heart

By June 10, 20113 Comments

This week I learned two very important lessons:

To be grateful for the gift of hearing, and the danger of using Q-tips to clean your ears. However, the link between these two lessons is probably not what you’d guess. No, I did not burst my ear drum with a Q-tip. The story is actually a lot more grotesque than that, but before I explain I’ll give you the back story.

About a month ago I developed an ear infection for the first time since I was probably in third grade. I didn’t even know adults developed ear infections! Unfortunately, about that same time I lost hearing in that ear and long after the infection subsided my hearing loss persisted. My doctor instructed me to come back after 2 weeks if my hearing hadn’t returned, but by then I was far away in North Carolina.

Finally, after an entire month of hearing loss in my left ear, I went to an ENT in Charlotte who looked in my ear and realized the problem. This is where it gets gross, so if you’re squeamish you may wanna skip to the next paragraph. Apparently my hearing loss was the result of using Q-tips to clean my ears. Ironically, in trying to clean my ears of wax I instead pushed the wax further down into my ear duct, which consequently impaired my hearing. I was able to witness the problem first-hand when my doctor washed out my ear and a large plug of wax popped out. Yes, I know that is an incredibly disgusting story but it is also  a cautionary tale! Do not use Q-tips to clean your ears! I thought I was doing the right thing by using them, but apparently our ears don’t need much help. God designed them to do a good job cleaning themselves.

Ok, the gross part is over.

After I left the office that morning, I was on cloud nine. Before the ear infection I had never understood just how much we need BOTH ears in order to hear. It really does make a difference. I spent an entire month asking people to “speak into my good ear” and constantly turning my head to one side in order to better listen. I had to sit strategically at dinner tables so that my good ear was facing the conversation. I had to monitor my voice level to make sure I wasn’t speaking too loudly or softly. In dozens of tiny ways I had to readjust my daily actions in order to compensate for my deaf ear.

With a month of that behind me, I was exhilarated to have my hearing restored. I have never been so grateful to hear out of both ears! An aspect of my daily life that I had previously taken for granted was now a treasure to me. For several days after, I occasionally paused to take note of the fact that I could, wonderfully, hear out of my left ear.

As a woman, I spend a lot of time focusing on the things about myself that I don’t like, such as the parts of my body with which I am dissatisfied. If I had the option I would probably change a thing or two about my body, and those “problem areas” steal the majority of my attention. However, losing my hearing opened my eyes to how rarely I thank God for my health. Rarely do I meditate on how perfectly God designed and sustains the human body. Even when I am sick or injured, there are other parts of my body that continue to function beautifully and flawlessly.

I also see this skewed mentality play out on a broader scale. In life, I tend to focus on what I don’t have instead of thanking God for what I do have. I allow the stress of school, the lack of any real income, and comparison with others blind me. I forget that pursuing a PhD is a gift, and that God has provided for us in MANY ways. When I look back on all the things that fell into place so that Ike and I could both pursue PhD’s, it is incredible. Almost miraculous! But do I celebrate those blessings on a daily basis? No. I focus on the fact that neither one of us has a full-time job, and it seems like school is taking forever, and all my other friends seem to be settling into nice houses and having babies.

Some seasons of life are indeed difficult ones. Not every season is a season of abundant joy and gratitude. Sometimes God takes away. But for many of us, we live in the land of discontent because we have chosen to. We willfully overlook the blessings of hearing, seeing, walking, marriage, children and having a job. But more importantly, we too often forget the blessing we have in Jesus Christ, without whom we truly would be hopeless.

So while this message is not a profound one, it is easy to forget: Be grateful for the many ways God has blessed you. You won’t recognize them if you don’t look for them, but He really is good and He sustains our every breath. Be grateful.


  • Emily Gidcumb says:

    When you are having a hard time with your current place in life, don’t forget you have a friend who both her and her husband are pursuing PhDs as well, so we are in your boat 🙂 If that makes you feel better.

  • irene fonseca says:

    Thank you for this message!! It is so true and sad that we take for granted what we DO HAVE and complain, get angry, are jealous, envy others who have what we don’t. However, as you pointed out, we HAVE a lot more than we think. Thank you Lord for ALL your blessings. Thank you for this messenger who spoke from her heart and gave me and others a MUCH NEEDED word of wisdom. Blessings.

  • Jessica says:

    I needed to hear exactly this, tonight! My fiancé and I have not only just gotten engaged, but have just entered PhD programs. I caught myself envying our married friends who, instead of pursuing further schooling, were settling in and getting pregnant. All the while I kept “forgetting” that we chose this path, and all of the other incredible blessings we’ve received (for which many, many of our friends and family helped us pray).

    Thank you for the reminder, and for sharing what is in your heart so freely and honestly. It can feel overwhelming, sometimes, thinking I am the only one who feels these things. We are not alone in our struggles! Not only do we have the body of disciples on which to lean, but we have Jesus with us. It’s such a relief!

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