Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I need to shut up more often.

A counselor once told my wife and I that, “you both have tremendous insight into Jon.” He said this because I wouldn’t shut up. I swallowed those hour long sessions with thousands of words about me. My questions. My hopes. My fears. There is no shortage of ways I will describe and ramble when the topic is me.

It’s ironic to even admit that because this is a blog about me. No, this is even worse. This is the second blog I created because the first wasn’t enough space to talk about me. Yay wordy narcissism.

I’ve tried to talk less, to use less words, to be more careful about the way I ramble but it never works. If someone makes just fleeting eye contact with me in an elevator I swear I’ll open a flood of words.

Recently though, a few verses in Numbers hit home. You have to love the Israelites. They’re like a traveling circus of mistakes and failures. They are sermon illustrations with legs, the worst and best of what mankind can be. That said, here is the story that taught me a lesson about brevity.

The spies have been sent into the Promised Land to scope things out. They come back and are divided into two groups. The people that are afraid to go in and then the people that think it’s possible (Joshua and Caleb).

Here is what the spies that are afraid say in Numbers 13:

"We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan."

Wow, that’s a mouthful. More than 70 words, most of them reasons they can’t do it. They quickly mention the milk and honey but then launch into this “but” diatribe. The people there are powerful. The cities are fortified and large. There are giants and more types of enemies than we can count.

And then as if that were not enough they say,

"We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are. The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

All told, we’re looking at 128 words of doubt. Love too that in the midst of it they call themselves grasshoppers. (Ever said “Ugh, I’m such an idiot?”)

I can just see myself doing the same thing when I’m faced with a challenge. I ramble. I get a little sweaty. I try to “word my way out of trouble.” But how did Caleb respond to this? Here is what we’re told:

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."

That’s 16 words. About 15% of what the other spies said, but he knows it doesn’t matter. He knows that it wasn’t about the words. It wasn’t about the odds or the giants or the hardships that lay ahead. It was about God and he’s big. So Caleb’s words got to be small.

I like that idea, allowing my words to be small and God to be big. Allowing my mouth to be silent while God’s hands are loud. Allowing him to be him and me to be me. Even if that means being quiet.

1 comment:

alece said...

i liked your statement about "allowing my words to be small and God to be big." good challenge for me, too.