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"The Quiet Game"

I often marvel at my eldest son. I have never seen someone quite like him. When I ask him how he is doing, I don’t get a simple and straightforward answer. He proceeds to tell me, in detail, not only how is doing but about how his brother wronged him earlier that day, why he is excited about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie (even if he’s not allowed to see it), why he thinks that so and so should straighten up and behave and so on. Before I know it twenty minutes has passed and I can’t recall my son even taking a breath between sentences. It’s quite extraordinary! However, my mind is unable to process all of this “information” at such a break neck pace. Suddenly, without warning, he finally stops to ask me what I think. Frantically, I come up with some generic response so he won’t feel the need to repeat his very lengthy soliloquy. “Ummm...Yes son! I absolutely agree!”

Anyone who has a child like mine (who, by the way, I absolutely adore) understands the temptation to simply acquiesce to whatever he or she says. However, I often walk away from such exchanges experiencing the Holy Spirit’s conviction because, as I have said in earlier articles, words do matter. They should be meaningful. Perhaps I have failed to communicate to my offspring that it is the quality and not the quantity of words that matter (and boy the quantity is often abundant).

Silence is an underappreciated virtue. In the art of conversation, as is the case with many disciplines, it is sometimes best to stick with the old adage, “let it breathe”. Sometimes we try to cram too many words into a thought and before you know it you have a run-on sentence as long as the Gettysburg address.

Do you remember playing the quiet game when you were a kid? In our household, it was a game often initiated by my parents. Hmmm? Why wouldn’t they want to listen to me? I was a very interesting child! Anyway, the goal was to be as quiet as possible. Whoever spoke or made a noise first, lost. The key to this game was to be a better listener than you were a talker. If you were content with simply listening, then it was easy for you to win. However, if you love to talk, like my son, then you would likely lose. As I observe people converse, the most effective communicators will either spend most of the time listening or will ask thought provoking questions followed up with short but precise statements. For example, the Pharisees approached Jesus and asked him whether or not it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. How did Jesus respond? Did he confuse the Pharisees with a rapid word assault similar to that of a Gatling gun? No, He simply asked them for a denarius and inquired whose picture was on the coin. How often do respond with a statement rather than a question? When they answered that it was Caesar’s face inscribed on the coin, Christ simply responded, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” The Bible says that they “marveled at him”. I can imagine their jaws dropping to the ground as they turned away in disbelief. With a few words Christ left them speechless. The most effective statements often leave people saying, “huh?”

Whenever my wife and I are blessed to get away on our own, apart from our kids (God bless em’), I will often ask my wife, “Do you hear that?” She then responds with confusion, “No. What? I don’t hear anything.” To which I respond with a huge grin on my face, “Exactly! Isn’t it great!” Sometimes the constant barrage of talking and irrelevant noise in our lives is so loud we truly cannot think. Whenever we are enduring trials and struggles, the temptation is often to add more noise to the situation. We will often turn on one or more TV’s, read the news on the computer, or start texting our BFF’s (or in my case all three at once. Oh come on! I know you do it too! Fess up!). Yet, it might be in our own interest to settle down and ponder the Lord and His glory. The psalmist admonishes us to, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” When we are too busy talking, we forget whom our speech was intended to glorify.

So, now back to my predicament with my very verbose son. Instead of letting him ramble on about this and that (it will be impossible for me to wrangle every statement), perhaps I should tell him to stop and be quiet for a moment and then ask, “Son, have thought about the majesty and glory of our Creator and Redeemer today?” Because my wife and I have attempted to train him in the fear and admonition of the Lord he is able to articulate some beautiful truths about our God. And then there it is! Beautiful golden silence! Ah, but I have spoken too soon! Like releasing a paused mp3 player, he resumes with his previous discussion about how he thinks that Star Wars movies are much better than Star Trek. Sorry to the Trekkies out there, he has a point!

- Jordan McGehee