An Odyssey of Worship Music for the Deaf Man

I love worship music. My singing voice sounds like a dying toad’s last croaks and my foot taps up while yours taps down. But I love it.

Blast back to February 2016:

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The Hillsong Concert – Feb. 26, 2016.

I was so sick. I’d been victim to the worst flu in memory for weeks, exacerbated by multiple major lung infections and a brewing blood infection I didn’t yet know about. Yet, there I was in the crowd of Hillsong United’s Hawaii concert, separated from the stage by just one line of bodies. The bass was shaking my ribs, my heart was fluttering.

Here Now (In This Madness) was the opening song, the song that so perfectly captured the inexplicability of God that must be experienced to be believed.

Faith makes a fool of what makes sense
But grace found my heart where logic ends
When justice called for all my debts
The Friend of sinners came instead.

Here Now (In This Madness), Hillsong United

By the end of the concert, I was wiped. I felt like I’d black out if I stood any longer. Kristina and I found seats in the upper stadium and she kept saying how bad she felt that I couldn’t fully experience the concert. “Nah, it was all worth it. I had to be here.” Hosanna by Hillsong United is the song that inspired me to surrender all and accept Jesus into my life, to live unashamed of my faith among peers, to care about the broken state of the world.

I see a generation
Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith

Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity.

Hosanna, Hillsong United

It was their music that kept me swimming in the hardest of medical trials. Did you know that stimulation of the auditory cortex lowers cortisol and raises dopamine? As in, music relieves your stress and makes you darn happy.

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine.

Oceans, Hillsong United

If I had to choose a last ‘hurrah’ for my hearing, it would be that concert. And it was — I began losing my hearing a week and a half later, possibly because of the flu virus.

Suddenly, when faced with the colossal challenges of deafness and transplantation, I no longer had my musical manna to fuel me. I sang in my head to comfort myself, tried to imagine each crash of the cymbal and strum of the guitar. But it just wasn’t the same. Yet, the lyrics pushed me further into my journey and comforted me much as Scripture and prayer did. It assured me I was following a Plan towards a greater future beyond my comprehension.

I lean not on my understanding
My life is in the hands of the Maker of heaven.
I give it all to you God,
trusting that you’ll make something beautiful out of me.

Nothing I Hold Onto, Will Reagan

I maintained God would heal my broken body and make something beautiful of it. Make me whole — I was in shambles long before the events of the past couple years. The victory would be pyrrhic, but the glory would go to God if I survived. I swore it to Him.

When I received my new lungs, I was awestruck by the idea that I was singing praises through the lungs of another man, lungs provided as a piece of the Plan that had been dotted by so many miraculous happenings.

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only
You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken.

Great Are You Lord, All Sons & Daughters

Later, I would attend a church conference in New Mexico. It was eerie and heart breaking to see friends and strangers, hundreds, all praising with music. Yet I couldn’t hear a thing. My heart felt such sorrow. Music isn’t required to worship. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t miss it.

It drove me to pray harder than before that my hearing would be better than expected, once repaired by cochlear implantation. Most people don’t enjoy music right off the bat with cochlear implants. Many times, they never enjoy music. Yet, I prayed with optimism that music would return to my life. And it did. Minutes after my implants were activated.

Our Father
All of Heaven roars Your name.
Sing louder!
Let this place erupt with praise.
Can you hear it?
A sound of Heaven touching earth.

Spirit Break Out, William McDowell

As my blog suggests, things weren’t perfect from thereon. I slipped into grief, anxiety, and guilt simply because I survived. I was traumatized and feeling alone. But I called out for help, and I’ve been answered.

You were my shelter from the storm
When all my friends were gone
You were right there all along
I’ve never known a love like this before, oh
I just want to say that I love You more than anything.
More Than Anything, Lamar Campbell and the Spirit of Praise
I called you answered
And you came to my rescue and I
I wanna be where you are.
Came to My Rescue, Hillsong United
A week ago, I sat with my new church small group. We sang worship songs together, my first intimate worship experience in many, many months. We sang songs like Oceans and Nothing I Hold Onto. And I felt at peace, embraced felicity. The odyssey continues, trials will force themselves into my life. But I will continue to praise and be forever grateful for the music I now hear.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It Is Well With My Soul, Horatio Spafford