Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Silence is Golden

Not too long ago, I went to the movie theater. It seems that films worth $10. a ticket are becoming scarce, so I'm fairly selective about which movies I'll pay that much to see before they are released on DVD.

This particular film was Hollywood's version of a book I'd really enjoyed several years back. I'd heard they were in the process of making the novel into a movie and I couldn't wait for its release. Leslie, Lilia and I went to an afternoon matinee, and although there were parts of the film I enjoyed, overall I was pretty disappointed.

The Secret Life of Bees was so well written that it's entirely possible that some of the story's intrigue for me was just the beautiful way that Sue Monk Kidd has with words. Somehow, reading the novel was an extremely different experience than seeing its enactment on the big screen. I was much more disturbed and horrified by the violence and racial bigotry as I watched it than I had been while reading.

I imagine that's how the story of Job would be if I had seen these events unfold instead of just reading the account. I realize that I can't grasp the enormity of his pain and suffering, yet I am still very moved by the awareness of how tragic his circumstances were.

Chapters 10-13 of this difficult book reveal more about his personal feelings and frustration, as well as detailing one of his so-called friend's advice. After listening to all that he could stand, Job finally says (in verse 5 of chapter 13) shut up already! Well, that's not exactly what is written, but it's close.

5 If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do.NLT

One of the wisest women I know is my mother. She has an enviable ability to keep her mouth shut. I've seen her resist the temptation to speak the truth more times than I can count, and sometimes, I have wanted to speak for her--to defend her right to be right. What I've seen in her life however, is that her ability to know when to speak and when to be silent is a beautiful gift that has served her in amazing ways. I don't know one person who knows her who doesn't admire and love her. They know that when she does speak, they should listen, because she has something valuable to say.

I, on the other hand, have this terrible tendency to say too much, too often, and too quickly. Even as a young girl I remember my mother telling me that if I wasn't careful, my mouth would get me into trouble one day. And it has.

With my middle school girls at church I once bought a new tube of toothpaste, then allowed a volunteer to open it and squeeze the entire contents onto a table. Next, I challenged her to put the gunk back into the tube. Of course that was an impossibility--and that's exactly the same way it is with our words. Once they're out, they're out. There's no amount of taking them back or apologizing that can retract them or erase the trouble or pain they've caused.

The Bible has a lot to say about our words. Proverbs 16: 23 and 24 reads:
From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

My mother taught me that there is wisdom to be found in thinking before speaking. I wish I could say I've always followed her example and that I've never been guilty of behaving like Job's friends who spoke with words that compounded his pain. Ecclesiastes 5 verse 3 warns that too many words make you a fool.

After Leslie and I were seated at the theater that afternoon, we watched a few advertisements followed by previews for upcoming films. The previews were followed by what initially appeared to be yet another movie trailer. Instead, it turned out to be an appreciated and needed reminder in "mini-movie" form. The "mini-movie"/fake preview was interrupted by loud cell phones ringing, babies crying, and people chattering just before the screen faded to black and an announcer's voice said: Please don't add your own soundtrack to the movie...

Sometimes my sweet girls, you'll be tempted to add your own soundtrack, but remember this: a truly wise friend weeps with the wounded in golden silence.

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