For years I’ve assisted various college-prep non-profits by annotating college admission essays, but what I didn’t know is that one would give me a message that would literally change my view on life. Think about it, what really could a High School Junior write about that would impact MY adult life, more than ten years their senior, as I matriculate through the challenges of adult hood. What could a High school student in this information age, with the world at their fingertips convey to me in 500 words or less that would spiritually jolt me in a manner not felt in years. Well, the answer to these questions, came from a young south-east Houston, TX girl, for our purposes named ‘Issa.’ Issa, was deaf in her right ear.
For the Texas Admission college essays students are asked to write on 3 different topics, but the most unique is Topic B: Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life, and the skills and resources you used to resolve it. Did it change you? If so, how? Issa, opened up her essay with the words: “When you’re underwater everything sounds the same, sound is muffled for everyone. Once you rise out of the water, however, you are able to hear fine again. Such is not the case for me.” Immediately, I was grasped by the imagery she depicted, and found myself instantly recognizing how I took the ability to hear for granted.
Reading through the rest of the topic answer, the young student continued her narrative of all the daily challenges of only being able to hear out of one ear. The difficulty at home, around her friends, and not to mention in the classroom. Always having to ask friends to repeat what the teacher said, talking with instructors after school, etc. Because of Issa’s unique A-bility (for this writing it’s not a disability) her classroom experience was a bit altered from most. It was when she described the layout of her daily classroom posture that I stopped and had to reread it.
Developing some ‘tricks’, Issa described to us how she overcame this seemingly life-halting A-bility in a few ways. See, she had a challenge with being distracted in class because of her only being able to listen in one ear, and having classmates that were often times loud and disruptive. When you only have 1 available ear to the instructor, noise tends to affect you more than others. Issa was determined: “If the teacher allowed the use of head phones, I would simply pop one in my right ear, and leave the other open for the teacher.” So simple, and yet profound. Moreover, she went on to describe the layout of her classroom. “When I got to class each day I would sit in the desk nearest to the teacher, and turn my deaf ear towards the class room, and my listening ear towards the teacher. PAUSE… WAIT… SAY THAT AGAIN? “When I got to class each day I would sit in the desk nearest the teacher, and turn my deaf ear towards my classmates, and my listening ear towards the teacher……”
Maybe you missed it. Issa went to each of her classes every day, and sat in a perpendicular position to her teacher in a way that her deaf ear was to her classmates, and her listening ear close and directly in front of the teacher. She altered the environment around her so that all of the noise around her fell on a deaf ear, while the instruction was clearly received into the good ear. Issa had defied her distraction by using her A-bility to her Advantage. MESSAGE: How many times have we needed to SHUT OUT the distractions of those around us, and focus our attention solely on the TEACHER? Mark 4:19 talks about
this very scenario: but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. The ‘world’, our distraction, keeping us from setting our eyes on something above and not beneath, something great, and not something mediocre. We can’t allow the word to become clouded by the smoke of what everybody else might be focused on, because what’s in store for us is coming from above. Eyes have not seen, nor EAR heard…… the GOOD (GREAT) things… in store for us. What things do we find ourselves constantly distracted by, that we watch days, weeks, months, and years go by BUSY, and yet unaccomplished and unsatisfied.
Issa implemented a survival tactic in order to not be left behind, and ultimately get ahead of some of her peers in school. Think about the advantage she now was in; not only did she sit closer she literally was unable to be distracted by any of her peers. It’s like she was getting one-on-one instruction.
So what does that have to do with you and me? Well, what if we had the zeal she had to learn in school, with our desire for God’s purpose on our lives. If we could completely shut out our worldly distractions consistently how much better off would we be? Have you ever felt like God wasn’t answering your prayers? Have you ever thought He’s trying to answer you, but you’re too focused on everything else? You have to ask yourself: What is it that I’m allowing to get in the way of my true purpose in life: Fear? Doubt? Money? Relationships? False hope? Social Media? Job? It could be ANYTHING. It’s those things that seem the most routine, that end up being just what’s needed to keep us enough off track that we’re moving but not going anywhere.
I’m grateful for little Issa, and how she shared her story with me and eventually dozens of colleges across the country. As I write this, I’d expect that Issa is submitting those essays, and making her final decisions on college. I pray that her story, and her A-bility take her to new places and heights. And likewise, to the person that’s reading this, that your new found distraction free perspective helps you elevate to the next level of life. Try it out: Disconnect from a few things, a few people, for a set period and set your eyes on something above. Watch how God will speak to you in an even more mighty way.
With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,
Trent J ACEO