Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shut Up

Do you ever find yourself talking your way into a bigger and bigger hole? It happens more often than I’d like to admit, but it is something God is working on in me. And you know what? I am content to be quiet.

There are things I have prayed for my whole life, things I would never know how to go after myself or how to achieve. Relationships restored. Wounds healed. They are things I never thought would happen because as much I was talking, trying to speak them into existence, the gap between what I experienced and what I longed for only seemed to grow wider.

I have always been that way. I have always been under the impression that if I could string the right words together, if I could keep talking until someone actually heard me, and if it was as eloquent, pointed, and quippy as possible, words would fix everything. But for all my talking, I never got one step closer to the reconciliation, the restoration, or the peace I was praying for.

So I started talking more to God and less to the objects of my obsession. Tell me what to do, Lord. Tell me what to say. Tell me how to heal this and how to demonstrate, how to show (because I believed I could show by words and it would be faster than by actions) that my words match my heart, that something is different now, that the world should see me in a new way, that the past should be forgiven and healed, that we should all move on. That I should be respected as the new woman You have made me in my heart and that my life speaks a new story now, according to Your grace. Tell me what to say, Lord. Tell me!

And then He answers. Cleary, concisely, honestly.

“Shut up.”

Shut up? But if I shut up, how will I ever tell them? How will they ever know the tremendous blessings You have poured out into my life? How will they know that I’ve connected with You in a new, real way and that You’ve completely turned me upside down? How will they know that what I do now, what I say, and everything I am breathes only for You? How will anyone know, how will anything change, if I don’t tell them, Lord? If they don’t hear me?

“No, seriously. Shut. Up.”

In those still moments when I try to figure out what all this means, how to speak a message without words when it feels like the very people I want to share a new story with are hardly looking my way, would hardly notice the subtle quietness and the small yet radical shifts in my manner, my posture, my being. In those still moments, I notice that they are noticing.

The calmness of a once tumultuous sea invites someone to turn their head. To see where the storm disappeared to, to look out over the calm, and to simply notice the way that what seemed devastated, destroyed, violent, defeated is simply still. The loudest voice in the world could not turn heads the way the stillness does. The most carefully crafted, beautifully elegant words could not make an impact the way a posture of grace, of humility, and of stillness reaches beyond the cognitive and creates an unspoken dynamic.

God, in His mercy and His grace, has stilled my storm. I have known that; He has done it again and again as I’ve fought against my own currents to keep the trouble going, having feared the stillness myself. And when what He was doing in me sank into my heart, really sank in, I saw how I was changing. I saw how I was seeing the world differently. How my heart responded in a new way. How everything changed in less than the blink of an eye. By simple surrender.

Then, I did the only logical thing I could think of: I have been trying to tell everyone about it. Loudly. Forcefully. Demanding attention for the beautiful stillness, for the awesome power of His mercy, for the redeeming power of His grace. Demanding that everyone’s eyes be opened not by His work reflected in me but by my words, which – if we were honest – you would struggle to trust if you had known me before, if you could not see the faithfulness behind them. If I’m trying to get you to see me in a new way by doing exactly the same things I would have done years ago as a form of manipulation, then of course your response will be timid.

But I’ve learned to shut up. I’ve learned to stay quiet. And I understand more of what Mary knew – that there are stories of God that you hold quietly in your heart and treasure them. These are your stories, your moments, but all the words in the world would never capture exactly what it means to carry Jesus inside of you. It is your smile, your radiance, the way you live your life before the world. It is walking along beside Him, making the journeys He asks you to make, trusting His word, knowing that He is somewhere, even when you don’t see Him right away. It is the song you sing with your life: magnificat.

For the record, the more I learn to shut up, the more I watch Him work in my life and the more I see Him answering my prayers. Wounds healing, relationships restoring. It takes more time than I’m used to, more time than I would like to give. I have to stop myself, pull back, and embrace the stillness millions of little times every day because when I see those small inklings that things are going in the way of peace, it’s still in me to jump all over it and start talking, trying to capitalize on the moment and force my way through the patience to the end result. It doesn’t work; it only results in increased tension, mild to moderate setbacks, and that painful conviction of knowing I have spoken against the work of God in my life despite using all the words of His love.

So I am content to be quiet, teaching myself to be still. To listen to the still, small voice inside of me that reminds me of my place. To fall on my knees. To hold my moments with God close to my heart and know that it is my smile, my song that tells His story; not my contrived and strained words. And to breathe – just to breathe – the small beauties of a blessed existence, like this morning’s thick fog. Then to smile, to worship, and to thank Him for His little gifts and His big ones…and the answered prayers I see unfolding every moment when I answer Him and simply shut. up.