I have always been a bit of a chatterbox. When I was a child I know I wore my parents out with my constant questions. And I think it is fair to say that I loved the sound of my own voice. As an adult that tendency toward speaking often has definitely been moderated, but I will always been someone who loves to chat with people. I’m fairly certain it’s hardwired into my DNA. Even my times of communion with God, my prayers are more about me speaking. I couldn’t even begin to understand how monks and people could take a vow of silence. (Not that such a vow is common these days)
But my readings today got me thinking about the power of words and the importance of being still and listening. And I thought that it is probably those monks who are most like me, who take those vows. So that God can not only speak to them in the silence, but show them just how important words are.
We spend our words freely these days. We value the quick wit, the witty come back, the burn. But what if everyone in the world took a moment and paused before they spoke. One of my friends has an expression which I have stolen and use often with my own children, “words are like toothpaste, once you squeeze them out of the tube, you can’t put them back”. Good advice and definitely worth remembering. What if we all decided that we would use our words to build people up instead of tearing them down. What if instead of responding in the heat of anger, we responded in the warm of love?
I have certainly been guilty of the above at various times in my life. As a general rule, I try to make disagreements about communicating my feelings and listening to the other persons, but that doesn’t always happen, and I can easily call to mind one right now.
Sarah Young writes in Jesus Calling “Pause before responding to people or situations, giving My Spirit space to act through you. Hasty words and actions leave no room for Me; this is atheistic living. I want to inhabit all your moments — gracing your thoughts, words and behaviors.” I want that too. That is the point of this journey I’m on, to become closer to God, to trust in Him, and to live the life He calls me to live. To trust in Him, and not on my own understanding. But when we speak without thought, we aren’t really communicating with those around us, we are simply reacting. And we definitely aren’t trusting in God in those moments.
Certainly in our lives there are people to whom we are more inclined to stop and listen; people we respect or love, maybe it’s your boss, your parent, your best friend. But there are also those people who we are quick to speak over; maybe its our siblings, children, strangers. I know that if I am going to hold myself to a higher standard, if I am truly listening to the Spirit of God inside me, then I need to give everyone the same respect; the same freedom to express themselves, and to be heard. Maybe we should all take a vow of silence today. To see and not be seen, to listen and not speak, to stop and be still. We might be surprised at the new ways God is able to be active within us.