I fixed a look on the woman in front of me. She stared back. Her brown eyes glittered with hope, expectation, and a trace of apprehension. I shifted my weight as a bead of sweat crawled across my forehead like a spider. I was stuck in the middle of an exercise that had quickly become uncomfortable.
I’d really been enjoying the class on learning how to hear God’s voice. I had grown a lot, and it seemed that the time it took to tune in to the voice of God was getting shorter. My confidence and boldness had grown as the messages God gave me for others in the class became longer and more specific.
But this night was different. This night I was lost in a blank canvas waiting for words that never appeared. I was supposed to listen for God, and then speak what I felt He was saying. The problem was he wasn’t saying anything. On top of that, we were up front where the ordeal was on full display.
I twirled the white gold band on my ring finger and heard a trail of voices flow through my head. Make something up. You can’t fail up here in front of everyone. You look like an idiot. COME ON!
The pressure to manufacture a performance was a bag of bricks on my shoulders. Somehow I held my tongue. Maybe because it felt like it’d tripled in size, and I feared if I opened my mouth I might just slobber all over her. I was just about to stutter some kind of apology when I heard a word, love.
My heart grew wings and I waited for the rest of the message. It never came. What else God? What’s the rest? I can’t just tell her, love. Love what? No answer.
I decided that one word was better than nothing. “So, uh, I just have one word.” She nodded and tilted her head at the same time. “The word is love. That’s all I heard.”
Her eyes went to the ceiling as the gears in her head turned the word. Then I felt movement to my right as someone stepped up to deliver the rest of the message. I stood in awe as the words of God flowed out of my classmate, and into the woman. The whole message was centered on the word love.
Afterwards, I asked the Lord about the encounter. Why couldn’t I hear him? Why had it been so hard? The answer deeply impacted me and still does today. He told me that one of the hardest things to learn is to be silent when there are no words. Speaking one word when that’s all there is can be just as difficult.
There’s something within us that shrieks and bucks in situations like this. Panic flows through us like ice water. I think it’s a recipe of nonsense. One part pride with one part fear of man. Add a dose of religion and that person is going to have their socks blessed right off their feet.
Any power the enemy has over us comes from his ability to get us to believe the lies he spoon feeds us. One of the lies I’ve believed in situations like the one I described is the responsibility for the persons success or failure rests on my shoulders. A couple more are if I don’t perform I’m a failure, if I don’t come up with something great everyone’s gonna think I’m a fraud, and one word isn’t enough to impact someone’s life.
But maybe this is an issue that comes back to a question of identity. If my identity has been solidified in the truth that I’m a child of God, and that all of my worth and value lives in the great love he’s poured out on me, then I could stand silent in front of someone all day with no intense desire to manufacture something for the pleasure of the audience or myself.
But if my identity clings to the gift I’ll strive to make it a success however I can. In the latter my worth and value ebbs and flows with the success of the gift. In the former my worth and value is as constant and unchanging as his everlasting, perfect love (Jer. 31:3).
I’m convinced that Satan does his best to show us a very small world. Click To TweetI’m convinced that Satan does his best to show us a very small world. So often decisions and even beliefs are formed by the immediate world around us. Though Paul instructs us to focus on what is unseen (as that is what’s everlasting), many of us live out our lives virtually unaware of the invisible with the exception of a handful of encounters and experiences. This tends to lead us toward the conclusion that if we can see it, feel it, touch it, and experience it, it’s good. If we can’t it lacks value or significance.
However, God doesn’t look through the same lens. His view, while so close and intimate to our individual lives, is so much bigger. He see’s what we don’t. While we look at the person in front of us and wonder how it’s possible that one single word could make an impact, he sees that one word hit and work and churn through their heart. He watches the impact of that one word as the person applies it to their life. He rejoices as that one word leads that individual to seek a deeper relationship with him. His heart is full as he meets that person in the intimacy he’s longed for.
While we often don’t connect the dots beyond our scope, God is busy drawing lines all over the world. He can even make deep and life-changing impacts on others through our willingness to be silent.
The courage to be silent or to only speak one word is found in his unchanging, overwhelming, perfect love. And it’s this we must learn if we are going to strive to be a people who manage his words with love.
Jesse and Kara Birkey