From Trickles to Waterfalls

From Trickles to Waterfalls

She still remembered what she saw as tiny toddler.

“I had caught glimpses of broad, green fields, a luminous sky, trees and flowers which the darkness that followed could not blot out. If we have once seen, the day is ours.”

Many of you have heard of Helen Keller. Born in 1880, she was a normal and happy little girl from a small Alabama town. She could see and hear perfectly.

Helen as a girlHowever, before she turned two, the high fevers associated with meningitis made her blind and deaf. The sudden darkness and silence felt utterly nightmarish. She clung to her mother’s dress and had many tantrums from confusion and despair.

Months would pass.

Eventually she started to understand what was going on, using her hands to touch every object. She learned small ways to communicate: shaking her head for “no,” or nodding for “yes.”

A pull meant “come,” and a push meant “go.” If she wanted her mother to make ice cream for dinner, she’d shiver and point to the freezer. Still, she remained frustrated and disconnected from the world at large. It felt like being on a ship, lost in fog with no compass. She later wrote that the wordless cry of her soul was, “Light, give me light!”

Helen and Annie

Young Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan

Years would pass before the answer came.

From her autobiography, she noted…

“The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Sullivan, came to me. The light of love shone on me in that very hour.”

For what was about to happen was a miracle.


Helen and Anne by pump

The movie, The Miracle Worker (1962), portrays the moment when Helen Keller understood the meaning of language

Before her illness, she’d learned a few words like most toddlers. But she only remembered one word when all other speech was lost. And that word was–water.

After many failed attempts to teach her the meaning of sign language, her teacher, Anne Sullivan, walked her down the path to the water pump. She placed Helen’s hand under the running water. As the cool stream rushed over one hand, her teacher spelled W-A-T-E-R with sign language into Helen’s other hand—first slowly, then rapidly. Helen was almost seven years old.

“Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that w-a-t-e-r meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand.”

Helen with award

Helen Keller receiving an Oscar

Language was the key that unlocked the entire world to Helen Keller. She became the first blind-deaf person to effectively communicate with the world. Escaping the “double dungeon of darkness and silence,” she grew up to be a highly intelligent and articulate woman. She graduated from Radcliff College in 1904 and published 12 books. As a “world citizen,” she traveled to 35 different countries on five continents, which for that era of travel was astonishing.

Winston Churchill called her “the greatest woman of our age.”

Helen with JFKShe met every President from Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy, and received the Medal of Honor from President Johnson for her example of courage to all mankind.

There was no one like her.

She remains a profound symbol of triumph over adversity. The fruit of her life’s work, particularly for the blind and the deaf, has impacted hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. Maybe millions by now.

What happened to her in the natural is a perfect analogy for us spiritually. Many people feel deaf and blind when it comes to hearing God’s voice and seeing His ways. Like Helen, we can nod or shake our heads. We can tell God we are hungry, cold, or tired. We can pray, “Help!” But that level of relationship won’t take us very far.

Language involves shared meanings. Known words, build upon other known words, inspiring people to think beyond concrete understanding to abstract thought. Issac Newton picked an apple (concrete) but went far beyond that piece of fruit to ponder the meaning of gravity (abstract).

Communication is greatly enhanced by language.

To illustrate, consider this: One can play music on a piano by ear, but think of the potential for beautiful harmonious sounds when one learns to read musical notes, the language of music.

Symphonies are possible.

The Bible lay open on her lap

The written Word and the fresh words of God go hand in hand and work together!

God gave us a place to start—the written Word—and it will always be our foundation for revelation, interpretation, and application in all spiritual matters. But we are limited if we don’t learned to hear the fresh voice of God through the Holy Spirit.

Language was the key that opened the world to Helen Keller. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her make this connection. In the same way the Holy Spirit helps us form language with God so we can recognize when He is speaking to us in fresh ways, every day.

You see, it’s one thing to open the Bible and read John 3:14… “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” I can feel a certain measure of God’s love in that wonderful verse.

Woman with outstretched armsBut it was so much more meaningful to me when He reminded me of Song of Solomon 7:10 on two coffee pot clocks: “You are my Beloved and My desire is for you.”

When that happened, it was deeply personal, and my experience of His love soared to a whole new level. 7:10 is language. It holds great meaning for me, because it came from God at a time in my life when I felt very unloved.

Do you see how the fresh words of God build on the written word of God?