"Let's give 'em something to talk about. A little mystery to figure out..." Do you remember this Bonnie Raitt song? Did you start humming it as soon as you read these words? It is one of those songs that I can't help but sing along with when it comes on the radio or I hear it as I walk down the aisles of the grocery store. The lyrics refer to the fact that people are going to talk no matter what, so we might as well give them something to talk about! This is so true in so many ways.
It is true in the business world, where the water cooler chatter is GOING to happen no matter what the company policy is on gossip. The wise CEO or Manager will keep the work environment engaging and purposeful enough that he or she will be able to guide at least some of that conversation in a positive direction.
It is true in education as well. Schools (be they elementary, middle, high schools, or colleges/universities) are little micro-communities. The "buzz" is unstoppable when it starts. When I met my husband, we were both working for the same elementary school. Our budding romantic relationship became the talk of not only the staff, but also the students that year!
It is also true within the church. Both the "little c" local church and in the "Big C" global Church. We are social creatures and we are designed for communication with others. Each believer gives the church and the world something to talk about, whether they intend to or not. As I read the Bible, I find that there are many people who gave the Church wonderful things to talk about:
Philemon verse 7: "Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints." NIV
Philippians 1:4-5: "In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now" NIV
Colossians 1:3-4: "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints" NIV
God has given us plenty of wonderful things to talk about, yet often we keep those things to ourselves and choose instead to vent or complain, or discuss things that will certainly keep others talking, but not in a way that brings about joy or encouragement.
Today, let's take responsibility for the words that we speak. Not just avoiding saying things that are negative or unhealthy, but purposefully sharing something that God has given us to talk about! Don't just give in to the pointless conversations that abound around you, give the world and the Church something to talk about that will bring encouragement and joy. God doesn't teach us things or let us experience things so that we can simply ponder them in the quietness of our hearts (though there is a time for that). Eventually, we are to share those lessons learned and experiences with those we come in contact with. Every good and perfect gift God gives us on earth is not only meant for our own encouragement, but also for the encouragement of others. He has given us something to talk about and a mystery to figure out. Let's get to it!
I am not tempted by course talk, generally not one to gossip (or when I do, I am almost immediately convicted), seldom utter hateful words, and am not given to slander. On any given day, I choose my words carefully. When I read scripture about taming the tongue, I often see those verses as good reminders, but not something I particularly need to dwell on. I'm a careful, cautious girl... rarely fly off the handle... those verses are for other people, right?
Recently, God has shown me that these verses are indeed for me. Here are some of the things I'm learning, and they all center around allowing the Holy Spirit to be the prompter for when to speak and when not to:
1. Just because you have an answer, doesn't mean you need to give it. This brings to mind Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books. She was always the first to have her hand up and always had the right answer, much to her classmates chagrin. I am no longer a formal student, but I can certainly find myself spouting off "the right answer," in other contexts without thinking first or paying attention to those around me. Sometimes the process of arriving at the "right answer" is just as important as the answer itself. Everyone having a voice and a chance to process things at their own pace, these things have value.
James 1:26 "If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself and your religion is worthless." NLT
2. Just because you are thinking about something and it is weighing heavily on your mind doesn't meant that now is the time to share it. I am a thinker. I can get very wrapped up in my own head and at times get to a point where I feel like I have to express everything I am thinking. Why? To have my thoughts validated or nullified by others? Because I've grown impressed with my own thinking and need to be affirmed for my genius? Because surely if an idea is consuming my thoughts it must be important to others as well? There is a time and a place for every word to be uttered. When I share a thought with someone just because I feel a need to get it out of my brain and hear myself say it out loud, without first considering who my audience is and whether or not it is really time to share that thought... I get in trouble. I either share with the wrong person, or share at the wrong time and end up having to eat my words.
Proverbs 21:23 "He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles." NASB
3. If there are not thoughts/words that are just between you and God, how close of a relationship do you really have with Him? One of the things that is so precious about my relationship with my husband is that there are words, thoughts and ideas that we have shared with each other that we haven't shared with anyone else on the planet. This makes our relationship special and develops trust and intimacy. Think of your best friend when you were a child and how you shared things with her/him that you didn't tell anyone else, and how that strengthened your bond. Some things need to remain between us and God - not to be secretive, but to build relationship, trust and intimacy with Him. I love the movie, Miracle on 34th Street (the newer version in particular). There is a scene where little Susan is struggling with whether or not to believe in Santa Claus and her mother suggests to her that she ask Mr. Kringle for something that she would never ask her mother for and then if she gets it on Christmas morning, she will know that he really is Santa Claus. If we never trust anything just to God (telling him and asking him about things we don't share with others), we won't have the deep, awe-inspiring pleasure of hearing/seeing him answer us in a personal way that proves who He is and how He feels about us. We'll settle for lesser manifestations, getting to know a God who loves the world but missing out on the God who loves us individually.
Matthew 6:6 - "But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you." NLT