Back in the early days of this blog I wrote regular posts called Sunday Pause where I would ‘pause’ on ‘Sunday’ and share something meaningful from the Lectionary reading for the day. These were usually some of my least read blogs. The writings must have been deeply spiritual because people passed over them as quickly as possible.
Nevertheless, here I sit: I’m writing this on a Sunday and I am pausing. Pause is a good thing.
I hated every day of elementary school and high school. I couldn’t take school seriously. I was mostly to blame, with a constant string of report cards that read, “Brian is capable of being a good student but does not apply himself.” Teachers shared the common observation that I needed to focus more and stop day dreaming. (Daydreaming is worthwhile if you want to be a writer. Just saying.)
On the other hand, many teachers didn’t make a lot of effort to engage me. A few days ago I was thinking about my grade 1b teacher (I attended two different schools that year). I don’t recall her name or much else about her except the following:
- She told me I must have my parents teach me how to tie my shoes;
- I was instructed to breathe through my nose and not my mouth;
- I was reprimanded for bringing a stalk of bamboo to show the class.
I guess I couldn’t tie my shoes and teacher wasn’t interested in doing it for me, though I don’t recall ever asking her to.
Apparently mouth-breathing was offensive to her; not sure why. It has only been in recent years that I’ve learned that I have ‘narrow’ breathing passages but, oh well.
We actually did have a stand of bamboo in our backyard – planted by the previous owners I assume – and I brought a piece to show the class something interesting from my home. Teacher 1b didn’t believe bamboo could grow in our area and told me so in front of the class, branding me (and my parents?) as a falsifier of show-and-tell information.
That’s it. That’s all I have to show from a semester with Teacher 1b.
I know, I know – I need to let go of what happened a lifetime ago. I assure you I’m okay and I realize she may have been a nice person; kids miss those kinds of details. But still I wonder why those are my only memories … when I think of her, all I recall is negative.
Did my lack of shoe-tying skills deserve such an ultimatum? I don’t think so.
Did it really matter which orifice processed more oxygen? In the big scheme of things, I’m guessing not.
Why the need to judge the integrity of a child’s proud moment of sharing? Isn’t participation the point of frickin show & tell?
And why did first grade students need to be victims of Teacher 1b’s need to judge and opine on everything?
Instead, what if she had paused and spoken gently for the purpose of encouraging and helping?
It seems as though everybody has an opinion to share – on everything, And we just can’t keep those opinions to ourselves. It’s why people write blogs…
The big problem is, our opinions rarely have a broad enough range of information or context. We are moulded by what we see, hear, experience, our upbringing, our economics, our geography, our colour – not someone else’s – so there will always be another viewpoint. True understanding requires us to walk a mile in that other person’s shoes, as the saying goes.
And anyway, people don’t want to hear any more one-sided opinions; they are typically received with resentment or blank stares. What’s the point of that?
I believe there is a need in our world to cultivate pause: the ability to listen, to hold our tongues, to keep our opinion for a time. Pausing allows us time to perceive and feel.
If Pause is important before we speak our opinions, then Grace is important when we speak them. Our words should be salted with enough love that we care more about truth than we do about winning or being right.
Putting Pause and Grace into practice is something we simply have to choose to do: choose to pause, choose to show grace. At the same time, contemplative worship, listening prayer, meditating on scripture, are daily practices that help us internalize quietness, patience, and the wisdom of well-placed words.
The world needs more Pause. The world needs more Grace.
While writing this blog a friend texted me and shared some verses from Ecclesiastes that she had found interesting (thanks CE!). Among them were these relevant gems for you to ponder:
The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one sinner destroys much good. (9:17-18)
Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious,
but fools are consumed by their own lips.
At the beginning their words are folly;
at the end they are wicked madness—
and fools multiply words. (10:12-14)
We are about to begin a new blog series on why evangelicals are drawn to conspiracies and I feel like it is going to sound much more harsh than I intend. At the same time most of us are experiencing a loud, crass barrage of dangerous opinions that would never have seen the light of day a generation ago.
I’m reminded yet again of the difficult balance of keeping friends by saying too little versus making enemies by saying too much. That’s what makes writing blogs so challenging – the need to be both opinionated and kind. However, this is a subject that is too important for me to be either quiet or unkind.
I have paused, and now I need to be gracious. Why? Because the kingdom of God matters more than I do.