By Brianna Hines
How many of you thought we would be addressing our speech in a study on simplicity? The things we say, or don’t say, are a serious indication of our heart condition, and if we are striving to seek first the kingdom of God, to keep our focus solely on Him alone, then our speech, or refrain from it, will flow from that posture.
Jesus exercised incredible discretion with His words. Read through the gospels and notice the restraint He practiced in His speech. Never a careless word, never an interruption. Thoughtful, heartfelt rebukes and strong, truth-filled defenses of justice. They all flowed from the same Source and were controlled in content and intensity by the Holy Spirit. Jesus only said what His Father wanted Him to say, and that is why He was able to say it so confidently, and also endure so patiently when the Father’s directive was silence.
Our words can also flow or be stopped up by this Holy Source. The key is to keep turning and turning our mind back to Him as we are conversing with others, reminding ourselves of His very presence with us as we are speaking, asking Him what we should say or praying for the person we are listening to.
God used my marriage as a golden opportunity to help me practice this very skill. Over years of fights with my husband (as all healthy marriages include), God taught me that the only way through an argument was to listen, and the only way I was able to listen without running away or blowing up was to pray while I did it. Pray, pray, pray. Pray that I would actually stop seeing red long enough to understand Lew’s point of view. Pray that God would somehow explain things to Lew because I was doing a horrible job. Pray for strength just to stick with it and stay in the room. Pray for God to help us figure this out and come to an agreement. Pray for patience and to stop watching the clock tick away hours of sleep. Pray that God would change my heart if I was in the wrong. Pray for a guard over my mouth when it opened in anger. Pray, pray, pray.
And you know what? I watched God answer those prayers, maybe not immediately, and maybe not in the way I expected, but God was present in our fights. Prayer was my lifeline, and still is, for making it through them. I learned that He can be present in every conversation I have if I welcome Him in.
Have you ever tried this? Have you ever tried inviting God into a conversation you were having with someone? To allow your words to flow from a Holy Source? You should. It is revolutionary. Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t remember to do this every time I am speaking with someone, but the times when I remember to, it changes the flavor of the whole interaction. I am able to still my mind and just listen to what that person is saying, really saying, without prematurely interjecting my opinion. When there are silences, I don’t feel a need to immediately fill them because in my mind I am using the pause to ask God what He would have me say or how I can best help the other person.
If we give Him permission, God can enter our silences. The whisperings of the Holy Spirit can fill the spaces our words would otherwise have been taking up. He can give us a sudden idea of what to say, or give us peace about sitting in the silence a little longer. He can show us how to pray for that person, or give us a fresh understanding of their heart. God can direct our speech like a trickle of water through His hand. It is an incredible feeling, this surrendering to God.
It is vastly different from what we normally use our speech for. So much of our speech is used as image management, seeking to change someone’s view of us, like when we apologize for the state of our house or our appearance when someone stops by unexpectedly. We are thereby giving the impression that this hot mess is not the norm even though, let’s be honest, it really, really is, at least at my house. We also use our speech to give false compliments, puffing people up with insincere praise in an attempt to win their admiration or control their emotions. We exaggerate our speech to impress people, ballooning the truth for a desired effect. We criticize, pointing out flaws in others that they are already aware of just to prove how much better we are. We throw words carelessly in sarcasm or anger that sting when they hit their target. We tell jokes at others’ expense, we share secrets with uninvolved parties, we make excuses for our mistakes instead of owning up to them, and we also stay silent when our voice could be raised in loving defense of another. As James says, our tongues can sometimes spark wildfire in our lives (James 3:5-6).
We have to be careful with fire. We have to be careful with our speech. Thankfully God knows how to handle fire and He can quench it with the gentle guidance of His Spirit — if we invite Him to. God wants us to experience speech flowing from a single Source, to taste the sweetness it brings to conversations, and even fights. He longs for us to invite Him into our daily interactions with others. Will we let Him? Will we give Him permission to guide our tongue?
I have been deeply convicted during this week of study. My words and my silences are not often flowing from a single Source. I exaggerate, I tear others down, I refuse to speak when I should, and I speak too much when I shouldn’t. Upon examination, I have fallen dismally short of where I would like to be. But God has encouraged me that I don’t have to stay there. He is a good teacher, and He will let me try again and again until I start getting it right more times than I get it wrong. Until then, I am trying to invite God into my conversations and to listen for His guidance with the words that flow from my lips. So just know that if I take a few seconds to respond to you during a conversation, I am not zoning out (or at least I hope I am not!). I am just trying to tap into the Source and take a moment to listen for His direction of my speech, or my silence. Who might God be calling you to have a conversation with this week, with God as an active participant?
For more on UFC Women’s Simplicity series, click here.