Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19)
For the better part of the past 7-8 months, I have recognized the value of silence. This has been a hard lesson, because I love to talk. I love to voice my opinion. I love to write. It’s not that I love to be heard. It’s that when an idea has been placed on my heart and I believe that idea has come from God, I love to voice it.
Strangely, though, as I began to write more and share my ideas, I felt more and more like I was just adding to the noise. Every time I posted on Twitter, Facebook, or this blog, I felt like I was just one person making an effort to scream in a roomful of people who were already screaming.
And when everyone is screaming, no one is really listening.
Unique ideas are lost in the sheer volume of others’ ideas. Original thoughts don’t seem that original in the world of sharing and re-tweeting (though good words NEED to be shared). In such an environment, you join a crowd full of (well-intentioned, I hope) people whose Twitter posts read like fortune cookies, Facebook posts read like attempts to get “likes,” and blog posts can seem like ranting platforms where anyone can “sound” right and authoritative about anything.
And don’t even get me started on the “comments” section of anything…
So I shut my mouth for a while. And just listened.
When everyone is screaming, no one is really listening.
And I learned something.
Back over the Christmas break, I visited with a couple of pastor friends of mine who have helped me immensely with their encouragement and counsel in more ways than they know. While we were discussing social media, church conferences, and all the other noisy “outlets” that lure in so many leaders, one of the pastors said: “I think the biggest problem with the church today is that (pastors) have lost the ability to hear from God.”
I do not believe I have heard a more challenging sentence in all my years of ministry. But what drove it home the most is that I felt like he was talking about me. That I – in spite of years of ministry and a desire to follow God with all my heart – may have, in fact, lost the ability to hear from God.
To recognize this is simultaneously devastating and liberating. It hurt, but now I knew what I needed to do.
I had been reading book after book (which is good), but not the Bible – not HIS word. I was writing about the things on my heart and leading others to follow. But I spent very little time in silence asking God, “What do I do now?” I was simply running with what I already had and was hoping that it was enough.
“Pastors have lost the ability to hear from God.”
Fortunately, I have a God who is ever-patient. And once I realized that I was not truly listening, I decided to make less noise. I decided to listen more and speak less. I stopped writing. I started listening. I started observing. I paid more attention to what was happening in the lives of my family and my friends.
I chose silence.
While silent, I have seen that He has shown me that He has been wanting to transform me before I can presume to try to transform others….
While silent, He has shown me how I need to heal so that I can better heal those who bear or who have been the bearers of similar wounds….
While silent, he has been honing and redefining a vision of what “church” can be as I move forward. He has given me small glimpses into the possibilities that may lie ahead as I obey him one step at a time…
He has revealed pains, flaws, misguided ideas, tendencies to recreate what was lost….
He has helped me through heartache, loss, and so much more…
He has revealed weakness, lack of faith, doubt, discouragement, unresolved hurts….
Silence is an amazing thing. Silence can bring a clarity to your life that is not possible when your mouth is always open. Few things are more deafening to our own ears than our own voices.
Few things are more deafening to our own ears than our own voices.
And now I see more clearly the path ahead. I see the risks that I have been afraid to take. I see possible opportunities that were not there before. I see the dreams I was chasing that were mine, not His.
So now I dare speak again. I do not speak to add to the noise. I speak hoping that in some way that only God can make possible that my experience may resonate with others who are tired of the noise.
But I also speak because I once again realize that God has always been at work. I speak again because God loves the world and has some great news for it.
Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot. – D.H. Lawrence