Hi, my name is Kerri. I am a deaf and mute college girl who has learned to hear and speak. I want to tell you my story. It was a few years back now that I was attending the world’s largest deaf-mute college in Washington, D.C. Having been there one year I was due back home to visit my family in Oregon. Besides being excited to see Dad and Mom I was thrilled because our home near the Pacific coast would be the site for our family reunion. Unfortunately my flight had many stops and layovers along the way.
On the second layover a girl about my age boarded the plane and sat next to me. She looked rather shy, yet she seemed interested in me. Her red hair curled gracefully and her face was rosy and freckled from the sun. Her blue eyes glistened as they looked at me. Before the plane lifted off she had discovered that I was deaf and mute. I could see the puzzle in her eye as she thought of a way to communicate with me. It didn’t take long before a notepad and pen came out of her backpack. She introduced herself by writing: “Hi, my name is Betsy, nice to meet you! What is your name?” The rest of the trip we “talked” by writing back and forth.
We informed each other about ourselves, our families and our hometowns. We wrote about college and summer jobs and our favorite hobbies. I tried to explain what it was like to be deaf and mute. This whole idea of communicating without speaking seemed to amuse her. After much dialogue I noticed our discussion was becoming more personal and was going a new direction.
“Are you a follower of Christ?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Where do you attend church?” she enquired.
“Well…I…haven’t for years.”
“Are you able to read and understand your Bible?” she daringly probed.
“I own a Bible…but…it is in a box in a closet in my parents’ home. I should read it.”
“You know, years ago I was deaf and dumb too,” she wrote.
I looked at her in disbelief. “You couldn’t have been,” I scribbled back.
Then out of the blue she began writing about a story that she had read in the Bible. There was a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech. He was healed by Jesus, the Son of God. She wrote down a verse from Scripture: “[He] put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened” (Mark 7:33, 34).
Betsy said: “I could not hear God as He spoke through His Word. I had nothing to say about Him. He has changed all this. I read the Bible and understand the truths about Christ and my salvation. He has freed my tongue to talk about how wonderful He is. Has He performed that mysterious wonder in you?” she asked.
Now I could tell that she was after my innermost thoughts and beliefs.
“Well,” I scribbled, “I’m saved. My parents never had any trouble with me. I get along with people. I never got involved in any of the bad things young kids do.”
At that moment Betsy bent over and began fussing around in her backpack. I secretly hoped that she was hunting for some gum or a piece of candy to share with me. To my disappointment she came out with her Bible. She thought for a moment and then opened it to Ephesians chapter 2. She wrote down the eighth verse: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works: lest any man should boast.”
She looked at me with hopeful and longing eyes to see if I understood. At the time the verse was just a jumble of words. I gave her a slight grin and nodded my head. “Whatever”, I thought. I could see that she felt impelled to explain this all to me. I tried to look away and show my lack of interest but she quickly slid the notepad my way again. “Grace is you owing a hundred thousand dollars to someone and they say that you don’t need to pay it back. This is God’s remarkable way of saving people. He doesn’t save you because you are so outwardly good, but because He is so good and gracious. Our sin indebts us much more than one hundred thousand dollars, yet God graciously takes our sin away through faith in Jesus Christ.”
I was annoyed that she looked at me as a sinner. I thought that I had covered up my dislike of people by acting kind, my selfishness by appearing liberal, my evil thoughts and words by silence. I was a hypocrite. If God was perfectly holy and required that of me, I was a guilty sinner.
To my delight the stewardess came by and pointed to the sign that had lit up in the front of the plane: “PREPARE FOR LANDING! PLEASE FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS!” I sighed in relief. I quickly put my pen in my bag and appeared anxious about getting off the plane. My “friend” and I gave one another a smile and we soon were parted in the sea of people at the airport.
At last I was on the final leg of my travels. I changed planes for the last time. This time I found myself on a flight with many unoccupied seats. I was able to sit alone for which I was glad. I tried to push aside the discussion and questions of the previous flight. I pulled a magazine from my bag and laid back in my seat to read. Trendy fashions and exotic perfume advertisements filled the pages. As I browsed through the colorful magazine the passage in Ephesians kept playing over and over in my mind.
Finally my plane landed. To my surprise my big brothers were already home and had come alone with Dad and Mom to pick me up. Glancing beyond them I noticed that two sisters-in-law had also come along to the airport. I couldn’t wait to get home and relax with them. The past semester had been a difficult one and I needed a rest.
I was ready to enjoy the lazy days of summer. The following days were busy. They were packed with visiting, laughter, stories, and the recalling of happy memories. Although the moments were full of wonderful companionship, I found myself somewhat miserable. I had hoped that I would have forgotten the text that the red-haired girl had read me. How could it be that I still remembered it? I even recalled how the girl’s eyes looked when she finished writing and turned to me. I sat back in my chair and shook my head.
Suddenly I was tapped on the arm. My sister-in-law motioned to me with a smile. Using sign language she encouraged me to tell her what was wrong. Smiling I shook my head. I denied that anything was troubling me. I shuddered at the thought of telling her my personal feelings of guilt. Was there something wrong with how I lived in the past? Did my sinfulness mean that God did not love me?
As the bustle died down in the room I noticed that several family members had gone off to their rooms for the night. My mind was still hard at work. More thoughts of the airplane discussion rang through my head. Suddenly a surge of fear seized me. Was that girl implying that I was not saved by my own goodness? I tried to quiet myself by thinking about all of the good things that I had done for my family and friends. Again worry overwhelmed me. Maybe I had not always done those good things because I loved God.
“Nobody is perfect,” I told myself. Sure I had not been reading my Bible, but look at all of the nice things I had done. I remembered staying up all night to type a term paper for my roommate. On the one hand I felt that a gracious God could not find reason to be angry with me. On the other hand, I sensed my guilt before God and felt ashamed to stand before Him. These thoughts left me feeling confused and troubled. I sighed inwardly. I saw the eyes of my sister-in-law glance my way again. I felt my forehead and hoped that she would presume that I was tired. I slowly raised myself from my chair and headed upstairs to be alone. I walked up the flight of stairs and flopped down on my bed. I tried to close my eyes. “I am just tired,” I thought.
A slight breeze made me reach for a sheet to cover myself. I drifted off to sleep immediately. As dawn approached, I rolled over. My blurred eyes caught the top shelf of my bedroom closet. I pulled the box that held my childhood Bible from its shelf. Sitting on the edge of my bed, I opened my Bible to the index. I scrolled down the list of names until my eyes fell on the word “Ephesians.” I slowly turned page over page. There it was: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
A gift. Not of self. Not of works! At that moment movement on the street caught my eye. I noticed someone dressed in a white shirt and dark pants climbing the steps of the church across the street. The building lit up in preparation for the morning service. I pulled my floral skirt and crisp white shirt from my closet. I showered and dressed. I quickly descended the steps, joining some family members at the breakfast table. After looking up and down at me my sister-in-law motioned with an inquisitive face as to where I was going.
She was dressed for church. “Are you going to join me in going to church?” she signed. Together with Bibles in hand we walked across the street. The pastor walked in and found his place. The congregation rose to sing. I read the words of the song. During the sermon I watched my sister-in-law’s rapid hand movement as she signed the words the pastor spoke. The minister preached about the cross of Jesus Christ. He said that the only hope for sinners is found in the blood of Christ. When the message came to an end the minister asked the congregation to rise and sing “Amazing Grace.” The words he had spoken and the message of this song brought relief to my soul.
My heart was flooded with thanks to God for His wonderful and free salvation. No longer did I need to try to be good to please good. I saw the folly of that. I now understood that I was justified and declared righteous before God through faith in Christ. It was all of grace.
I bowed in prayer and asked the Lord to forgive my hypocrisy and my sins. Then it all came back to me how the girl on the plane had stated that she had been deaf and dumb at one time too. Now I understood. I felt like singing; “He hath done all things well: He maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.”