It is a wonderful story. Both CNN and the UK’s Daily Mail are among those who are telling us about Grayson Clamp, the three-year-old boy who heard his first sound last month. It is a story of amazing technology with a compelling human touch. Grayson was born deaf, but now with an “auditory brain stem implant,” he is able to hear sounds. The first words he heard were from his adopted father, “Daddy loves you.” Watch the CNN video to see his reaction.
In fact, right now no one is exactly sure what Grayson is hearing. Is it simply sound, even noise, or is he beginning to be able to sort pleasing sounds from harsh sounds? He does not yet know that the sounds that form the words, “Daddy loves you” mean the same thing as “Daddy loves you” spoken in words signed by his father.
Craig Buchman is the surgeon who implanted the electronic devices in Grayson’s brain. “He’s sound aware, but we don’t know what exactly he hears,” Buchman said. “We’re relying on the plasticity of the brain to start to sort this out.”
The hope, of course, is that Grayson will begin to associate sounds with objects and experiences and certain words with what he already knows; for instance, that his daddy loves him. It’s going to be hard work, but it is the same work each one of us did as we took on language, the art of listening and speaking.
According to the surgeon, the human brain has enough plasticity to sort it all out. The brain is pliable, moldable, elastic enough to adapt to the presence of new stimuli and the loss of old stimuli. We rely on the plasticity of the brain not just for three-year-olds with hearing loss to learn to hear and talk, but for older people to recover from strokes and brain injury. God made the brain that way.
How, then, do we account for the lack of plasticity in the human heart, what the prophets and the apostles call our hard hearts? Our lack of compassion for those are unlike us and our unwillingness to obey the God who loves us betray the hardness and coldness of our hearts. Hard hearts deny food to the hungry and shelter to the stranger. Hard hearts breed war and animosity and despise the ways of peace. The hard hearted find no room for the joy of faith, the power of hope, the excellencies of love. Hard hearts repel the gospel.
The Biblical account of our hard hearts takes us to our first parents and their willful disobedience and to each of us as we choose over and over again to serve the lesser god of self. We’ve lost the plasticity of hearts.
The auditory brain stem implant that is allowing Grayson Clamp to hear uses electrical impulses to stimulate the brain. As his mother says, “his brain is still trying to organize itself to use sound.”
The Biblical account of God’s love tells how the Father sent the Son to live among us in a hard-hearted world, taking upon himself our burdens and going to the cross, dying at the hands of the hard-hearted to pay the debt we had incurred in our lives of hard-hearted living. But death could not hold him and rising from death he poured out his Spirit on those who believe in him. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are to learn to live our lives as tenderhearted people, organizing our lives around faith, hope and love.
The first words Grayson Clamp heard by the power of those implanted electrodes were, “Daddy loves you.”
The Biblical account of the gift of the Spirit speaks of the “implanted word” (James 1:21). It reminds us that we have received the Spirit of adoption as children, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). Indeed, by whom we hear of what love the Father has for us that we should be called children of God.
See you Sunday