A Word from Walker
Every now and then I am a loss for words, and as my Dad used to say, “For someone who talks for a living, that’s a pretty big deal.” Those who know me best understand that I love to tell stories, and occasionally, if I am lucky, I will remember the point behind my yarn-spinning. The weirdest feeling in the world is to tell a really good story and then have someone anticipate a punchline or lesson learned from my experiences only to have to tell them, “Hey I am sorry but I forgot why I was telling you this in the first place.” This is obviously a function of a scattered memory rather than lacking the required verbiage to make sense to my listeners. Getting older is a humbling thing indeed.
But there are occasions when I can’t speak, even if I try really hard. Usually it comes when I am overwhelmed. For example, there have been times when I have held a newborn I couldn’t speak because I was speechless before the powerhouse of potential that laid in my clumsy hands. Another time occurred when my wife surprised me with unexpected vows the day we were married and I stood there trying to figure out exactly what she saw in me while not blubbering like a fool in front of two-hundred family and friends. Of course there are times when you are faced with loss and don’t know what to think, much less what to say. There have even been situations when faced with deep darkness and heavy trials that I felt that I could barely raise my eyes to heaven, much less mutter a prayer that would remotely resemble anything appropriate. Speechlessness for a guy like me feels like a failure of my intellect or skills that leaves me looking weak or incompetent.
But the deeper truth is that there are times when to be speechless is one of the most appropriate things we can do. Romans 8:26-27 says “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” What good news this is! Confronted with sudden loss? We can offer wordless groans before the Lord. Challenged with a hard decision? There is help beyond the limits of our intellectual capacities. Given an arresting diagnosis? God can meet us right there is the doctor’s office as our minds are overcrowded with a cacophony of questions. Surprised by an unexpected gift of any kind? We can rest and enjoy this blessing without trying to offer up a spastic thanks. Silence is the timely fruit that blooms in a heart that is filled to the brim with God’s peace despite being confronted with overwhelming beauty, truth, or pain.
As I have meditated on this it occurs to me that in these days of confusion, fatigue, fear and frustration that instead of feeling the pressure to talk our way out of our angst perhaps we need to practice more purposeful speechlessness. Maybe instead of quickly correcting some insipid thing a friend has said on Social Media we would do better to say a prayer and re-engage a task that we need to get done. It could be that there are other situations when we have said all that needs to be said and what is left is to sit back, bow our heads or even quietly exit the room to insure that we leave God room to work in the gap between what we have spoken and what the other person is considering.
When our Savior stood before Pilate during his suffering the Bible says that he remained silent. Why? He was innocent. Even more importantly he was the Creator of everyone in that room. If anyone ever had a point to make it was Jesus in that situation. But he didn’t. What irony that the one that John called “the word” was perfectly comfortable with being silent in the face of the greatest injustice ever done to any human being. Perhaps Jesus knew words were cheap and wasted when tender submission to the Father’s plan was required. Jesus didn’t have to explain things to hard-hearted people. He didn’t have to give any form of self-justification or self-defense because such words would evaporate before people bent on evil like cool water on the desert floor. Talking, whether we like it or not, is sometimes highly overrated.
So, maybe we should talk less and groan more. I know that for me silence is becoming a valued practice in my walk with the Lord. And if he can help an inveterate talker like me, he can help you too.
Your co-laborer in Christ,