Updated: Jan 30, 2021
Somewhere toward the end of the year I was thinking about the verse in James that says "everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry". I don't recall the circumstances that brought me to think about those words but I really spent some time chewing on them. It's good instruction for me, well, because I'm quick to speak. My opinions and thoughts shoot from the hip and flow pretty freely and often are followed with some regrets... not because they were in anger or based on some negativity, but because they weren't fully thought through and seasoned with wisdom and grace.
If we listen long, if we listen with the real goal of deep and full understanding and we are slow to come to our conclusions and judgements, and slow to speak there is the opportunity for wisdom to come in and hopefully govern our responses. I'm certain that the order of those three things was intentionally written that way by the Wise One. If we do the first two well then hopefully we will avoid a triggered, angry reaction.
So, that was my goal. That was a practice I really wanted to develop in 2020. I was going to slow the flow and let wisdom have a chance. Except from the get go it didn't happen that way. And that story goes a little something like this...
On January 1st I was given the opportunity to take a spur of the minute trip to France and left on the 3rd. I was to get my seat assignment at the boarding gate and asked if possible I could get an aisle seat. When I got to my row I was doubly blessed to have the extra space of being in the bulkhead row. I settled in next to a young mama with her 16 month old baby and told her I would be more than happy to help out if she needed. I was really filled with gratitude that I had such a great seat. As we got closer to take off time a flight attendant came to me and softly asked me if I would mind moving to another seat. It would be a window seat. That's all I really heard. I quickly said that no, I would prefer to keep my aisle seat. He went back to talk with the other flight attendants, pointing around the cabin and looking at some papers. Suddenly it occurred to me that the request was to allow the mama to have more empty space for her and her baby on the long flight. Duh. I flagged the attendant back over and clarified that that was the reason and told him of course I would be glad to move. What I had missed in his original proposal was that I would be moved out of Economy, to a window seat, with an empty seat next to me, in an upgraded "Comfort Class" cabin. #perks
You see, I wasn't quick to listen and slow to speak. I was too concerned with my agenda...as narrow as that was. I missed a ton of pertinent information. Thankfully, I was given a second chance to do the right thing and was blessed with a very comfortable flight. But another chance was coming up around the corner, and I blew that one too.
Once I arrived in Paris I had to face three things that challenge me and make me nervous; Technology, transportation and French. I saw a kiosk where I could get a SIM card for my phone and hurried over to the twenty-somethings working there. Focused on my needs I asked "Do you speak English?" so I could determine how to proceed. The girl looked at me and said rudely, "Hello?" Oooo.K. So I told them what I needed, she ran the payment and he put in the SIM card for me and off I went thinking that they were kind of rude to an old gal that just needed some help. But, onward to my next challenge... In the following days I kept rehearsing that interaction over in my mind. I felt embarrassed and a little bent outta shape that she would be that way to me. Then the light went on. Duh. She couldn't see my nervousness about technology or French. She couldn't see that I was worn out and stressed about finding my train. To her I was just a rude person who had an agenda and no manners.
I began to realize that for me this verse was more than just about listening and talking. It was about a whole way of living, really. It's about slowing down...taking in information, verbal, non-verbal, signs, all kinds of information. It's about making assessments and considering possibilities. It's about giving grace and the benefit of the doubt. And I understand better the phrase "Fools rush in". Fools rush to judgements of people without considering their perceptions and feelings. Fool rush to conclusions based on their own narrow view point and limited information. Fools rush onto trains without double checking destinations.
Proverbs 18:2 "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." Proverbs 1:5 "Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands receive guidance..."