In college a guy named Mike asked me out to hear a band I was not interested in. I said no but he proceeded to engage me in a wager, which I lost, and so I went. I don’t even remember the name of the band. All I recall is that we were in one of the front rows, hard by the giant amps, and it was so loud it hurt. I looked around and everyone else seemed fine, and it would have been embarrassing to leave. So halfway through, I crumpled up a Kleenex and stuffed it in my ears. It was as effective as an electric hair dryer against a blizzard.
For three days I couldn’t hear much. By the fourth day, hearing was restored but the residue was a loud ringing in the ear (do not imagine the pleasant chime of church bells) that is mine forever as a souvenir of my folly. The official name is “tinnitus,” and the middle-aged doctor I consulted about it said he had incurred the same condition, from wartime explosions, and that I would learn to live with it. I have, for the most part.
In 1973 I took a job at a ski resort in Switzerland where I washed dishes in scalding water that left my hands looking like Maine lobsters by the end of the day. I didn’t ask my boss for gloves, for fear she would think less of me. In the subsequent years I realized I had totally wrecked my hands; I believe I had managed to melt the subcutaneous fat tissue under the skin. I am constantly hiding my hands.
Our forefather Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord one night, a match that ended abruptly when the mysterious opponent touched Jacob’s thigh and incapacitated him. Jacob walked away from the midnight contest with a limp, and a testimony for the rest of his life whenever anyone asked him about it. Would that my testimony of the tinnitus and the damaged hands were as inspiring, but alas, all they are is a badge of the folly of fear of man.
Mike now lives in Pacific Northwest with his wife and my Swiss boss has probably passed away by now. Neither of them remembers what I did for fear of making them think less of me. Neither of them remembers me at all. Young people, fear the Lord and Him only. What is man that you should fear him? He is a vapor that is here for a day and tomorrow is gone.