Filed under: Uncategorized
It was just a joke. It was a carelessly tossed group of words. It was an adolescent grouping of words that altered things in my mind. I was with my best friend and in trying to impress the girl across the counter at the pizza place I made a cruel comment about my mother. Before I could stop the comment was out of my mouth. I immediately felt guilt, but tried to put on a brave adolescent face. Needless to say it had the opposite effect upon the person behind the counter. It was disgust.
Yet, that was not where the story ended. That cute girl behind the counter whispered to someone, “I thought Brian was a Christian. How could he say something bad about his own mother?” It wasn’t long before that whisper had come full circle to my mother’s ears. I would never want to repeat that hurt conversation with my mother again. I didn’t think that any amount of apologies would atone for my words. Her grace and forgiveness in that moment were a true witness of faith. Oh, to have stopped the stupid word before it had exited my mouth!
Taming the tongue, the organ of our bodies that is a wildfire. Whew, that is a tough one. Aren’t we supposed to be decisive, standing on the side of truth, and ready to give an answer when anyone has a question? Sometimes the answer to those questions is, no. What I have learned painfully and slowly is that even in the face of bad behavior by others my tongue sometimes needs to be stilled.
Tough words from a man who often finds his mouth open and his tongue wagging. Well, take my admonitions as tough lessons that this thick skull is still trying to practice.
In a world of instantaneous messages, emails, texting, online reviews of everything, comment sections on blogs, and twitter we can become desensitized to the kinesics of our words. We can surrender to mob rule mentality or survival of the fittest when it comes to online interactions. We write in bold caps and curse others not seeing the terrible devastation we leave in our wake. Couple that with a D.C. culture of strict social classes, unspoken power dynamics, individuals who claim unquestionable social authority and strict civil hierarchies this can be a deadly place of whispers.
That is why for 87 years The Palisades Community Church has possessed a unique position in our world and community. It is because we claim to be a listening community. We are a community that does not judge others who are different from us, but listens to their perspective. This doesn’t mean that we accept everything, especially when it is destructive to our communities, but we have always listened.
87 years ago this congregation started as a hope that this neighborhood would have a worshipping community that would accept people of faith, whatever that faith might be. It was explicitly understood that to accomplish that goal we must listen to each other’s faith closely for each of us to gain something vital for our own faiths.
The goal of being a good listener is to quit talking and focus on what the other person is really saying. Caring deeply about their hopes, fears, anger, sorrow, joy, laughter and loss. It is the deep conviction that there is no separation between someone’s deepest held beliefs and their experiences in life. Plus, we may never know how we are molding someone’s faith through our compassion, mercy and love.
So, I chose the taming of the tongue text not only because it is a text that I think we need to remember, but because it is one that is continually convicting me. It is one that reminds me that words and perception matter. When we think that our loud mouths are prophetic and profound sometimes we are merely mean and bullies. In a world where we may toss off a million emails, texts and comments we are still responsible for the things that come from our tongue, pen and keyboard.
In 87 years we have been a witness to tolerance, inclusive acceptance and radical listening. Sometimes we have stood alone. That is a messy, sometimes painful, ultimately rewarding and always righteous undertaking. It is my prayer that we will never lose a ready ear and a hospitable altar for any people of faith who come through our doors. Thanks be to God.
8 Comments so far
Leave a comment