The Loudness of Patient Silence

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.” (Romans 5:5 NLT)

One of the first times I drove alone was when I was about 11. Of course, my dad was close by and gave me strict instructions – “Only go in a circle!” So, I loaded up a few of my friends and we took a “drive” around the dirt infield of our neighborhood ball field in my dad’s 1953 Mercury. I could barely see over the wheel, but I had an absolute blast.

When I was 14 or 15 my dad and I were on our way to visit my mom in the hospital a few hours away. He’d just gotten off his shift as a machinist and was worn out. So, again, he asked me to drive at night through the mountains of West Virginia in our 1956 Cadillac. I’ve only been in two accidents, neither my fault.

Why am I giving you this meaningless information? Because at 75 I’ve been driving a long time. I’m quite confident and competent behind the wheel, yet my beloved wife will still often bring a pillow and sit in the back seat. She says it just makes her feel safer. Earlier in our marriage she was the proverbial “nag,” but over time has learned to just be quiet and let me drive.

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As I age, I don’t remember directions as well, even to places I might have been a few times, so I plug in my GPS, which I’ve learned, doesn’t always know the way either. So, sometimes my beloved will plug the directions in her phone. No one I’ve dated or even my first wife, ever complained about my driving, so it used to really bother me when my wife was so critical.

That’s why I related to the comment Jim Mitchell made in a Family Life devotion when he wrote: “Nothing feels worse as the driver than taking a wrong turn and having your spouse immediately comment on it. No matter what words she uses, all you hear is, ‘Hey stupid, you took a wrong turn. I noticed.’ Maybe it comes with a subtitle for easy translation: ‘You are incompetent.’”

Conversely, nothing feels better after taking a wrong turn than hearing … nothing. You actually have breathing room to find your way back on track. Oh, you’re certain she noticed the wrong turn. And she may very well be biting her tongue hard over there. But the patient silence speaks volumes: ‘I’m just thankful you’re keeping us safe. You’re doing a great job. I trust you.’ So empowering. Wrong turns are inevitable. But giving your spouse a little room for error can make the trip more enjoyable for both of you. That’s helpful navigation.”

Fortunately, we have opportunity to exercise “patient silence” in other settings. At home, work, or even at church. What’s my point? As Paul writes in the verse above, patience is an avenue leading to “complete harmony” with other believers.

This may come as a shock and surprise, but we who love and follow Jesus aren’t all alike. And the plot thickens when someone like me who has walked with the Lord for many years discovers he can be wrong. As long as there’s air in these old lungs, I pray I’ll always be learning new things – about God, about the Bible, about myself, about others.

Regardless of how long we’ve walked with Jesus, we must be patient with one another. None of us will always get it right. I know I don’t “knock it out of the park” with every post, but I want to. I want to be so sensitive to the Lord that I always hear Him and record His thoughts accurately. But just as important, I want to be sensitive to His leading when I hear a fellow believer when they say or do something that is clearly not in line with what Scripture teaches.

Rather than quickly and publicly correct them, I want to be patiently silent until such a time as I can lovingly, privately and guided by the Spirit, have a conversation with them. A conversation that won’t embarrass or cause them to be defensive, but will help both of us to see things more clearly, thus deepening our love and appreciation for one another, not driving a wedge between us.

Food for thought.

Blessings, Ed 😊  

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