I recently had the joy of serving as a guest contributor on the Faithelement podcast. This weekly recording features a discussion on a lectionary text for the upcoming Sunday. I joined David Cassady, Bert Montgomery, and Daniel Glaze to talk about two passages from James. One of them covered a favorite topic on this blog: words.
From cupcakes to yoga to small talk in the grocery store, everyday life frequently points back to James' warnings about the power of what we say. Below is a post from the blog archives on this topic. I hope that this flashback will shed fresh light on the power of our tongues.
If you're not familiar with the valuable resources of Faithelement and Faithlab, take a moment to browse the sites. Check out the podcasts, subscribe, and learn more about their app. The episodes where you'll hear this preacher woman are "Dead Faith" (#7.37) and "Sticks and Stones" (#7.38).
Yoga (Teacher) Theology: A Time To Shut Up
From April 14, 2013
Three weeks ago, I resumed teaching yoga after nearly a year of being solely a student. As I've shared in recent blog posts, I'm grateful for the ways that God has met me on the mat without the responsibilities of leading a class. These past few months have provided opportunities for me to hear from God in new ways. When I decided to start teaching again, and felt that the timing was right, I wondered how my "yoga theology" would change. With my mind focused on instructions, would I forget that God was on the mat with me? With my own mouth moving, would I hear His words?
Like many of us, I love words. I love to write words, to speak words from the pulpit, to instruct in yoga, to ask questions, to read the Word of God, and to listen to other people's words. A friend of mine once described herself as a "verbal processor," someone who needs to process feelings and emotions by talking out loud about them to a trusted confidante, and I'm the same way. As the third chapter of James bluntly teaches us, our words are powerful, compared to the rudder of a ship, the bridle of a horse, and a forest fire. Every time I read that passage, I feel like we should all go on a month-long silent retreat!
While God gave us the gift of speaking, like all gifts, he trusts us to use it wisely. And sometimes that means knowing when to shut up.
In this morning's yoga class, I found myself going into detailed explanation of a certain pose: Turn one foot this way. Bend the other knee. Bring one hand here. The other hand there. Now pay attention to your muscles. Hug this muscle to that one. Extend through your right side...
In my attempt to explain, I confused. The more I talked, the harder it was to stop. No one complained, and there were no confused expressions. But I was suddenly aware that I was saying too much. Every day, we all struggle with the balance of saying too little or too much, whether it's in teaching a class, having a conversation with a loved one, or discussing a matter at work. How do we find that balance?
We can only learn through experience, and sometimes that means inadvertently turning the horse the wrong way, misdirecting a ship, or starting a fire, to use James' analogies. With God's help, we can get back on the right path or extinguish the flames. We have to accept that we will all make mistakes with our words. We have to be patient not just with ourselves but with one another. Two words that will always help us to balance what we say are "Forgive me."
For those of us who are harboring resentment because of someone else's words, please forgive them. For those of us who are upset that someone did not speak up for us, please forgive them. For those of us who have caused hurt by saying what we shouldn't say, please forgive us. For those of us who were silent at the wrong time, please forgive us. Most importantly, let us voice our words to God in prayer--for he forgives us over and over again. And he delights in our words. He probably laughs at many of them. And he desires that we live with joy and in peace with another.
And now-- I will shut up!
all good things to each of you,