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Bill Horner week of May 10 , 2012

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By Bill Horner

Somehow she always knew He was there

 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
 I picked up my granddaughter several weeks ago, bumped foreheads with her, and looked into her eyes. She met my gaze. I smiled. She smiled. I wondered how a 15 month old, who could not even speak yet, could know that I was looking at her. How does a baby know what a smile is? Indeed, how can an infant learn the concept of communication with another human being?
 A prominent scientist stated in a journal some years ago that he believed humans are “pre-wired” (his words) to know certain things. “Pre-wired?” That certainly raises the question of just Who does the “pre-wiring,” or Who is the Grand Electrician.
 Such questions surfaced afresh for me the other night during a performance of the play The Miracle Worker at The King’s Academy in Seymour. The King’s Academy is a Tennessee Baptist Convention sponsored K-12 school which seeks to promote academic excellence in a Christian worldview. Its students hail from such diverse locations as Korea and Knoxville, Russia and Rutledge, Taiwan and Tazewell. Marcia and I attended the play with high hopes of an entertaining evening, and we were not disappointed.
The Miracle Worker presents the viewer with a ripe slice of the childhood experience of the late Helen Keller. I first read this play in a high school English class and later saw the television version featuring Patty Duke as young Helen and Anne Bancroft as her teacher Annie Sullivan. The story captivated me from the start. How could a child who lost her hearing and sight at 19 months of age ever hope to communicate with others or have a realistic understanding of the physical world around her, much less an understanding of spiritual matters. And yet she did.
Students Aubin Fowler and Machalla Kinzalow brought to life the characters of Annie Sullivan and young Helen, respectively, in The King’s Academy production. The performance granted the audience keen insight into the struggle of the teacher, barely out of her teens, to break through the communication barrier with the wild, uncontrollable Helen. Sullivan would spell the name of an object, such as “doll” or “mug,” into the child’s hand. In time, Helen learned dozens of words. But it was all just a finger game. She could not seem to connect the right word with the right object in a meaningful way.
The dramatic climax of the play depicted Helen’s moment of insight as she realized the cool water flowing from the outside pump was the w-a-t-e-r that Sullivan was spelling into her hand. Helen began demanding to know the name of objects and people all around her, and the dark, silent world began to open up to her. There was not a dry eye in the school auditorium.
Annie Sullivan’s stubborn perseverance and firm compassion in working with Helen are inspiring as we too face challenges in life. But please explain to me how a child who has not seen, has not heard (except briefly as an infant) suddenly understands language and can begin to communicate with the outside world. Later in life she would even learn to speak. My own father was privileged to hear her give a speech at a high school assembly. Surely the Creator gave her the capacity to learn and revealed to her young mind things she could not have known otherwise.
While still a child, Helen met an Episcopal clergyman, Phillips Brooks.
Brooks in turn introduced Helen to Jesus Christ. Helen’s response was, “I always knew He was there, but I didn’t know His name.”
How did she know He was there? He must have already begun to reveal Himself to the little girl he created.
All knowledge, of spiritual matters or of the world around us, ultimately comes from God. Handicapped or whole, we can know only what He chooses to reveal to us.
“Jesus said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes’” (Matthew 11:25).