During our ramp up to the holidays that’s an oft used expression. Don’t DO so much. When opportunities become obligations, our energy is sapped and the glow goes right out of the season. Simplify, we say. Moderate, we admonish. Let it go, we advise.
Usually we are talking about keeping the house clean or decorating every last inch, making another batch of cookies or planning that over-the-top celebration for the kindergarten party.
But Dr. Rilling is not talking decorating or cookies. In fact, I am pretty sure he never had a hand in either. He’s talking silence. Let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. “God’s greatest works are done in silence. So, often, are man’s.”
Why do I feel the need to speak, email, emote, evoke, criticize, chastise and rebuke what’s going on around me? Could I do more in silence? If I withheld my comment and sat with my thoughts for a moment, could I be better? If I took a deep breath and counted the 10 commandments, would the importance of what I was waiting to say have been said? If, in the silence, I prayed that prayer that Jesus taught us, ‘lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’, would I have answered my own prayer?
Today, as I write, I am nothing. I have nothing to show for a lifetime of study, several degrees, accolades, certificates and even a published book. But I am something. The something I am is a source of encouragement, the voice of hope, the means to move forward, and the place of connection. What I am is the sum total of all I have been, and then some. The ‘then some’ is more than I’ll ever be, and yet it is somehow there. Completely invisible and yet surely completed along the way.
Silence is golden, they used to say. Today, thanks to inflation (and the whole supply and demand thing) it might have gone platinum.
If I had a CD that played nothing but silence, would I listen?
If I did, what would I hear?
What if you get to the ripe old age of, let’s say, over 50 and you realize you haven’t accomplished much? You know. You haven’t been successful in business, haven’t revolutionized a product or a process, haven’t been invited to speak before large crowds, haven’t even written a break-out novel. Heck, what have you been doing with yourself?
Worse yet, what if you were voted most likely to succeed by your high school classmates? How disappointing to start off with so much gusto and glide in with so little to show for it.
I’m not looking for sympathy here. I’m just stating the facts. I was given lots of tools and lots of resources and an open door to the world. That comes with strings. The strings are: use these gifts, talents and treasures to build up the kingdom. I’m looking back on a lot of projects that were started and not finished. Good ideas whose time just never came. Efforts and initiatives that fizzled and went out. Queries I didn’t follow up on or projects that had their season but were unsustained. Left behind. Lost.
One day I will be called to give an accounting. To lay all my deeds and doings on that scale and see if they balance against the plans God had for me. We’ll see, He and I, whether I have contributed what I was meant to while I was here.
Yesterday, I got some good news about this moment. There is a place for invisible deeds on that balance. Things we don’t see but God does. Time and age and distance and despair may blind us to what God sees so clearly. But every now and then we’re given a glimpse of the invisible. Someone is kind enough to share that what we said or did a long time ago has stayed with them. It’s become a part of their story – a good part – that has meant much and lingers still. We have forgotten these things. In fact, we are reluctant to believe we are even responsible for these things because, let’s be honest, we were really not such good people back then. But still, something real remains, and it gives life.
Somehow God is working His eternal in our lives here on earth even without our knowing. And that’s good because, had I known it, I would have messed it up for sure. I am feeling especially blessed today for the kind recallings of this old friend who says the old me still lives on in him – in a good way. How do you account for that? No telling. I’m just glad God’s doing the accounting.
And I still have time left. It’s a wonderful life. Now, to finish that breakout novel!!
What you’re gonna do is written all over your face. Who are you kidding? Other than yourself.
Perhaps it has come from being in the fitness and motivation business for a long time, but I know whether you are going to follow through on your discipline or not. I can tell, just by looking.
Oh, finishers and the also-rans may both have purchased new sneakers or new workout shorts or a new swim suit. They may have both invested in some new gear, perhaps hand weights or a yoga mat or even large scale exercise equipment. But that doesn’t spell success. In fact, often the biggest spenders are the least compliant. They have fulfilled their responsibility (in their own mind) by making the purchase. As if to say, “See, I mean business. Look what I am willing to spend.”
No, people who will follow through come prepared. They may bring a pencil and paper to write down the workout. Or they have scheduled several sessions or cleared their schedule many weeks in advance. They have told others what they are planning. In short, it’s obvious their heart is in this.
I love those people. They are great to work with. The others…well, I feel like I am stealing from them. Perhaps even complicit in a lie they aren’t telling me, but I know. And this doesn’t come from reading their minds. It’s just apparent in how they behave.
How incredibly obvious must this be to God? When our behavior tells the truth while our mouths deceive. We act according to our heart condition even while our speech is conflicting? God knows our hearts. He reads them as He reads our minds.
Jesus said to them,“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. ~ Luke 16:15
His discipline is designed to get us to agree with ourselves. To look at doing, our failures and successes, and see if we aren’t tripping ourselves up. Not because we’re “not trying hard enough” but because our hearts aren’t on board. God knows our hearts. He wants our hearts. So our lives would be complete truth.
I look at the successful people I know and they come prepared. They do the homework and bring their questions. They’re engaged in the process and leave with a plan for the next step. They’re on the success path. It isn’t an accident. They do it on purpose.
And there may be no money involved at all. This counts as much for relationships and family life as it does for Fortune 500 companies. For sports teams and pick up games as much as for small businesses. We come prepared for the things we intend to follow through on. If we don’t, we need to ask ourselves whether our heart is really in this. Because it’s obvious to everyone else.
We may scurry through life hoping to live in a way that “qualifies us” for the heavenly selection. pick me! pick me! But I expect that God, who knows my heart, knows good and well whether I am ready. He has told me to be prepared, in season and out of season. Because I won’t know when the time is coming. He knows that is the only way to live a consistent life. Heart, mind and body together toward one objective.
When we falter, that’s just God getting our attention: Hey, your heart’s not in that! Then we have to choose whether we will prepare our heart or not. The rest will follow.