By Susan K. Smith,
Ever so often at my house, there will be rush or something of water that comes from the toilet. It sound like someone has turned on the spigot and is allowing the water to run for about 5 seconds, and then it sound like the spigot is turned off, task, whatever it was, completed.
It is annoying because in my house, bathroom is near the area where we sit to watch television, and when that sound comes, for about 5 seconds, the sound of the television is obliterated by the sound of the toilet doing whatever it is doing.
Invariably, the sound comes right when someone is saying something I really want to hear. By the time I reach for the remote, the “water sound” has stopped but so have the words that I wanted to hear been spoken. I miss out.
It is irritating, as irritating as it is when someone wants to “chatter” when you are trying to listen to or watch something on television that you enjoy. The chatterer is oblivious to your irritation, and usually, because the chatterer is someone you love, you work very hard not to be short or curt or rude …but it really is annoying. “Chatter” is totally unappreciated, say, during a football or basketball game, or when someone’s “show” is on. The issue which is sparking the chatter may be truly important, but it is lost if one chatters about it at the wrong time. Being ignored, we who have tried to chatter at the wrong time end up with our feelings hurt.
What if we are chatterers? What if we are missing God’s talking to us, giving us direction, helping us in our daily lives, because we chatter too much? What if at the precise moment God is telling us something that will help us in whatever state we are, we start chattering, missing everything God has said?
And what if that tendency to chatter is weakening our relationship with God?
It might do us good to “go speechless” for a while, to engage in a process of merely listening to and listening for God. God said to Ezekiel, “Go, shut yourself into your house. As for you, mortal, cords shall be placed on you and you shall be bound with them, so that you cannot go out among people and I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be speechless…”
What if we decided to be speechless for a given period of time, so as to not miss the messages God has for us? What if we actually asked God to make our tongues cleave to the roofs of our mouths?
A definition of “chatter” is “to talk rapidly or incessantly about trivial matters.” Do we do that? Do we get in the way of substantive communication between ourselves and God by bringing up things that, in the scheme of things, are trivial? Do we miss out of divine words to us that could help us find our way if we could hear what God is saying? And …do we chatter because we are afraid of what God might say to us?
Children chatter. They cover their ears when they do not want to hear something, or make arbitrary noises so as to block the voice and the words of people they do not want to listen to. What if we are like that? What if we are like spoiled, petulant children who block God from our spaces and from our spirits, but then have the audacity to be annoyed with God when things in our lives are not going well? What if we try to “get the best of God” by drowning God out, only to increase our own angst?
Ezekiel was told by God that when it was time, God would speak and that God would open his mouth. My imagination makes we wonder what that time of silence was like, but it had to have been powerful. Made silent, Ezekiel might have been able to protest in his spirit, but the spirit of God would win that battle, because no matter what, Ezekiel would have no way to drown out God’s voice.
It might truly be the case that we chatter too much, at the wrong times, and that we have succeeded in sabotaging the space of life that God has carved out for us. Maybe we should ask God to cleave our tongues to the roofs of our mouths so that we have no choice but to be silent …and thus, lean forward in a new way to see ‘what the end will be.”
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith –Writer, author, musician, pastor, preacher and social justice advocate. She is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and author of “Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives,” which won the 2009 National Best Books Award. Follow Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith on Twitter:www.twitter.com/cassad