The Diagnosis

The boldness of asking deep questions may require unforeseen flexibility if we are to accept the answers.
— Brian Greene

His mother was laughing behind the one-way mirrored window separating the observation area from my therapy room. I was already struggling to keep a serious face, and hearing her didn’t make my effort to suppress the giggles any easier. I didn’t know what to say and as a speech therapist, to be rendered speechless could be lethal to ones career!

Fresh out of graduate school, my first job as a speech and language pathologist was at a communicative disorders clinic on the campus of Brigham Young University. I was responsible for everything including, scheduling appointments, conducting screenings, administering diagnostic testing, and providing therapy sessions, followed up with report writing and billing. The majority of my clientele were preschool or elementary aged children. 


On this particular day, I had a diagnostic evaluation scheduled with a young fellow who had difficulty pronouncing the ‘r’ sound. Most children were quite shy at our initial introductions, but I was usually able to put them at ease so we could begin the testing. However, this day was quite different. The young man who was presented to me in the waiting room was far from shy; in fact, he exhibited undaunted confidence that rivaled many a public figure. While his mother was being directed to the observation hall, I led this 6 year-old boy to my therapy room. Somewhere between sitting down and drawing a breath to start my instruction, this little guy took the lead, “OK…so this is my puh-wah-blem (problem). I cannot poh-nounce (pronounce) my ahw-z (Rs) because my tongue-bone is too weak. I cannot get enough pweh-sh-oh (pressure) to get the sound out po-wah-po-ly (properly). So if I can get my tongue-bone to be st-wong-goh (stronger), I will be able to say my ahw-z (Rs).” 

Huh? He totally took me off guard! With my mouth hanging open and his mother chuckling in the background, I mentally scrambled for a supportive response. I thanked him for his insightful ‘heads-up’ information and praised him for being so observant. I expressed sympathy for his struggles and agreed, where I could, with his conclusion. After all, he was right, the tongue is a main player in producing the  ‘r’ sound correctly. However, he was a little off in diagnosing and prescribing treatment to solve the situation.  

How often do we miss the mark—whether in regard to our own problems and faults or those of others around us? Do we ever make appointments with professionals and confidently walk into their offices with our issues thinking we know exactly how they are going to advise us? Then when their input meets our consciousness, we experience shock and awe because the answers they give had never penetrated our thought process before nor did we know the options they suggested were even possibilities? How often do we make similar judgments, looking from the outside in, with regard to the struggles and needs of those around us?

I estimate many a praying people, including me, have taken the same approach with God—the ultimate professional in all things. With personal concerns, accompanied by a ‘mortal menu’ of self-determined solutions, we say, “Here is my problem and this is what I want you to do about it.” This approach to deity, uninvited, may elicit a response similar to the one found in the Christian bible: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Striving to understand the ‘higher ways’ concerning our personal lives can certainly test our patience and faith, especially if it involves a waiting period. Impatience has a life of its own and persistently looks for a way out. Comedian, George Carlin joked about one of his favorite escape tactics, “The reason I talk to myself is that I'm the only one whose answers I accept.”  

When our impatience is focused on other people and their challenges, it is tempting to skip over asking well thought out, open-ended questions to establish a mood of respectful consideration, and instead offer unsolicited, advice-filled responses like, “You should just…” or “You could just…” Or worse, we can level down to flaw-filled comments such as, “You should have…” or “You could have…” which leave behind a stink of unresolved regrets and helplessness.

When faced with puh-wah-blems (problems)—our own or someone else’s—perhaps it is better to function as the letter ‘l’ does in the words ‘should’ and ‘could’ by just being silent…silent until supportive, open-ended questions are formed and considerately asked, and until higher answers are revealed. Then we can confidently know, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)