Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Let Your Words Come Out of Your Silence

Where there are many words, transgression is unavoidable.
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
Proverbs 10:19

Ralph Cramden of "The Honeymooners" had an unfiltered mouth. He could not keep the irritation in his mind from cascading like a waterfall out of his troubled self. He would open wide and say words he would often later regret. Afterwards Ralph would open his mouth again and confess "Me and my biiiiiig mouth!"

I've done the same, hopefully not as much as Ralph. One time I opened my mouth in a sermon and said a sentence that I wish I could take back. The next Sunday morning I asked my church family to forgive me for that. I've also done this with people I love, and confessed it with sadness.

After quoting Proverbs 10:19 Ruth Haley Barton writes:

"This is a truth that could drive leaders to despair, given the incessant flow of words from our mouths, pens and computers. Those of us who deal in words are at great risk of misusing words and even sinning with our words due to the sheer volume of them. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can literally feel—deep in my bones—that if I do not shut my mouth for a while I will get myself in trouble, because my words will be completely disconnected from the reality of God in my life." (Barton, Ruth Haley. Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, p. 124)

In silence before God I shut my mouth. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that "right speech comes out of silence, and right silence comes out of speech." (Quoted in Ib.) "Silence," writes Barton, "is the only cure for this desperate situation."

In my silent times before God he heals my troubled soul. He takes the edge off me. He calms the turbulent waters. He strips away dis-ease and restores my sanity. He grows self-control in me and empowers me to shut my mouth. The psalmist writes:

When you are disturbed, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds,
and be silent.
Psalm 4:4
When it comes to fixing people there is a time to be quiet and put your trust in the Lord. (Ps. 4:5)

"There are times when the most heroic thing a leader can do is to remain in that private place with God for as long as it takes to keep from sinning. In silence we consciously trust ourselves to God rather than following our human impulses to fix, control or put people in their place." (Ib., p. 125)