Let's Talk About Silence
Silence. I’ve been thinking a lot about that word, especially because the phrase "silence is compliance" is something I have seen a lot over this summer. I don't believe all silence is compliance, but I understand where people are coming from with that phrase, and I understand the heart of it. I am reading a book in which the author was abused as a child repeatedly by her father. Her mother knew about it. Her mother was not the abuser, but she chose not to speak against it or do anything about it. The silence of her mother was something that caused deep pain in the author, in addition to the pain of the abuse from her father. In this instance, the silence of her mother gave way for the abuse of the father to continue, and surely we can see how silence felt like strong compliance here. There are countless other examples like this, and it is something I have to strongly consider when thinking about silence.
There are other considerations.
The Bible has much to say about silence. It talks about the wisdom of holding back when emotions are high and the temptation is to let all your thoughts and feelings pour out (Proverbs 29:11). It says that great error is at work when words are many, but those who hold their tongue are prudent (Proverbs 10:19). It talks about the great need to really hear before you speak (Proverbs 18:13). But it also talks about how there is a time to be silent, and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:8). We are to speak out against evil (Eph 5:11), and speak up for the oppressed (Proverbs 31:9), and plead the widow’s cause (Isaiah 1:17). However, in doing so, the Bible is very clear on the manner in which we should speak: in gentleness (Galatians 6:1), with a listening heart that seeks to understand before speaking (Proverbs 18:13), and with the motivation to build up and impart grace even in correction (Ephesians 4:29). Obviously, these standards are for the Church and should not be expected from the world. But as someone who is a part of the Church I have been weighing all of this with care.
In the midst of all the tensions coming to a head in our country over the last four months, I mostly have chosen to take a break from posting online. This wasn’t because I didn’t care, didn’t have strong opinions on several matters, or because I am compliant to injustice in its many forms. I know from personal experience sometimes you just need to put a pin in it and “go to bed” to get some much needed rest before engaging in discussion where emotions are high and people (including yourself) are tired. Allowing for that space to ponder can bring much needed insight, perspective, awareness, and wisdom. It can move your personal pendulum (and the pendulum of your listener) from explosive and irrational to thoughtful and purposeful. Quite honestly, I felt like I needed more perspective, and the country needed a good night’s sleep.
I have been getting (and will continue to get) my directives from God on how to engage, stand for, and pursue healing on the issues gripping our country right now, specifically the need for racial healing, and how to seek out and live His justice. One of the main things that this has involved in this season has been a period of deep listening. Less speaking. Seeking to understand. Realizing my perspective is one tiny fraction of an ocean of reality. Humility. Overlooking offense. Extending rivers of grace in all directions because Lord knows I need it myself.
And to be honest, even though I felt Him inviting me to take a step back and listen, there were also times that I was wrestling with fear and confusion, and exhaustion from my own personal battles, so in those moments the silence slipped from a purposeful act of engaging elsewhere to an evasive cave to hide in. How easily this can happen.
I feel the invitation to begin showing up again in these formats, but it is not because of pressure from the masses that says if I care at all I need to be posting or doing xyz. My care in this season has looked like times on my knees in lament, scripture and heart-searching, hard conversations around the issue with folks black and white, intentional conversations with my kids, hosting and attending Zoom calls, and countless hours of reading and watching stories of people not like me. I have had incredible interactions and heartbreaking interactions. I had one of the most profound moments of love in Walmart where three people of color came to my rescue (after a glass bottle was shattered all around me) with such grace and nurture and assistance that literally after it was all done I went to another aisle and broke down in tears. I think I cried because all I want is for us to love and take care of each other like that, all of us, and I was longing for a better Kingdom. I want that Kingdom manifest in my heart, and I want it manifest in yours.
I think the Church is desperately needed in this hour. We have an opportunity before us to rise up and be at the forefront of a true stand for racial healing (not one convoluted with other agendas or fueled by rage). But we need to be fixing our eyes on Jesus, the ultimate Man of Justice. I would much rather be awakened by the Spirit than "woke” by a broken culture, but church, let us not be asleep. And if we’re silent at times, let it be motivated by love and purpose, not fear and complacency. And let it be because we are listening hard.