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Summary: Silence can help us train our tongue

Tilling the Soil of the Soul April 2, 2006

The Spiritual Discipline of Silence

James 3:2-12

Have you ever said something that has gotten you in real trouble?

In between University and Seminary, I worked at a steel mill in Burlington. My boss was the meanest guy in the plant. His name was Earl. Everyone was afraid of Earl – he had a crew cut when they were not anywhere near in style, he never flicked the ash off his cigarette, the ash just got longer and longer until it dropped onto his expansive belly. He was just mean to everyone. I worked outside in the yard on the trucks, and in the winter months, when work was slow, I’d head into the office to stay warm. At one of these times, people were in the office, telling stories and Earl told the story of finding an old empty gas tank in a field. He had brought it into his shop and was welding it to make something out of it. As the welder heated up the metal, the gas that had impregnated the metal years before was released and the tank blew up. Earl said he was lifted right up to the rafters of his workshop by the explosion, but he said, he landed back down without any injury. Without thinking, I said, “so you landed on your head!” the whole room roared with laughter which stopped as quickly as it started as everyone realized who I had insulted. Earl wasn’t laughing – he called me all sorts of body parts and kicked me out of the office. I wasn’t able to escape the cold for at least a week.

Have you every done that? Have you ever opened your mouth without thinking and said something you regretted later. Maybe, like me it was an innocent slip that didn’t go over to big, maybe you let go on someone and hurt them deeply, maybe you do it all the time – open mouth, insert foot.

This is what James says about controlling our mouths: James 3:2-12

Here it is in a nutshell – if we can control our tongue, there is nothing in our lives that we will not be able to control. The tongue is the most powerful part of the body with the power to curse & the power to bless, the power to start fires and the power to put them out. But the difficulty is that it is impossible to tame! But we are called to tame it!

The good new is that nothing is impossible with God – one of the fruits of the Spirit is self control, and as we partner with the Holy Spirit, he enables us to do the impossible – to learn to control our tongue.

One of the main ways that we partner with him in this area is through the Spiritual discipline of Silence

Three areas in the Discipline that I’d like to highlight.

Silence of the Mouth

Silence of the Ears

Interior Silence

Silence of the Mouth

When we think of a vow of silence, we think of this aspect of the discipline of silence. Although there are people who are called to a lifetime vow of silence, most of us are just called to practice silence for small portions of our life. Instead of fasting from food, we fast from words.

Why silence?

To train the tongue

“How can the discipline of silence teach tongue control? On a long fast you discover that much of the food you normally eat is really unnecessary. When you practice silence you find that you don’t need to say many things you think you need to say. In silence we learn to rely more on God’s control in situations where we would normally feel compelled to speak, or speak to much. We find out that he is able to manage situations in which we once thought our input was indispensable. The skills of observation and listening are also sharpened in those who practice silence and solitude so that when they do speak there’s more of a freshness and depth to their words.” – Whitney p. 193

One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent who will take control? God will take control; but we will never let Him take control until we trust Him. Silence is intimately related to trust.

The tongue is our most powerful weapon of manipulation. A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in a constant process of adjusting our public image. We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us, so we talk in order to straighten out their understanding. If! have done some wrong thing and discover that you know about it I will be very tempted to help you understand my action! Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on that.

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