I spent early January taken back to my 11 year old star stage days. Star stage, my favorite Christmas gift ever, was a microphone equipped with one pedal to shine a light on me and another to make a crowd roar. I never took my foot off of the crowd pleasing pedal, screaming in pure delight over my vocal performance. I distinctly remember my mom yelling into the living room “Megan Star Griffiths, enough. The crowd is exhausted.” Well, mom, I’m just living up to my name.
But this January I wasn’t going for an epic vocal performance. No, I tried my hand at comedy instead. Key learning of 2011 thus far? Don’t repeat the hilarious conversations you and your family have over the holidays to those not in the family.
My siblings and I spent the better part of Christmas break cracking ourselves up saying funny things in accents we came to believe we had perfected. Celebrities (I do an excellent Katherine Hepburn, my brother in law an uncanny Charles Barkley) and regional dialects (I do a great Buffalo bit, and my Southern drawl has really come into its own), among others (see, lesson learned! I‘m going to keep those within the cone of trust). Why, I thought, should I keep all of this hilarity within the safe haven of my parents house? The masses certainly will be entertained by this too! Somebody, give me a mic and clear the stage. A playa’s gotta play!
Terrible idea. It’s not hilarious to the masses. In fact, they assume you are drunk in the middle of day. My stand up routine died before it ever even got off the ground. And so I went quiet.
Certainly the poor reception of my performance wasn’t solely responsible for sending me into hiding. In 28 years, I’ve finally come to understand that I say entirely too much when I actually have nothing to say and I have nothing to say when I haven’t taken time to be quiet. So, coming out of the chatter and chaos of the holiday season, I minimized my social calendar, reduced my general amount of “out and about” time and spent more time by myself where I could charge back up, let my words be few and let them be well thought out. An extrovert who needs a disproportionate amount of alone time, I intentionally embraced the discipline of quiet.
And that’s what it is, isn’t it? Discipline. I never just accidentally exercise, accidentally go on vacation or keep running into the same friend over and over again by chance. I purposefully exercise to be fit and healthy. I go on vacation for the purpose of rest. I make plans with my friends because I want to be invested in them. Yet I often approach “quiet” like a luxury that has no goal rather than a necessary vehicle used to really sink my teeth into preparing for the continual work the Lord has for me.
I need quiet to rest. I don’t have to itemize how many different directions we are pulled in to demonstrate this need – no one is a stranger to being stretched too thin. With a growing list of responsibilities and technology making retreat impossible, daily life often runs opposed to the tools that bear creativity, foster ideation and enhance devotional time. I need to physically charge back up so I’m not trying to produce something fruitful on fumes.
I need quiet to listen. If my goal is to understand what the Lord has for me and then actually act on it, I need to intentionally create an atmosphere where the Lord can speak to me at full attention. Flitting from social engagement to work commitment to errand running to the next social engagement is not creating that atmosphere. The Lord has a word for us! Have we sat still long enough to receive it?! (For my fellow type A’s: certainly nothing is wrong with those things, but sometimes the good intentions of an efficient to-do list need to be re-assessed to the “to-do now” list vs. “to-do after” list. For my fellow extroverts: though good conversation and debate sparks great ideas and even transformation, it’s in quiet listening that ideas fully develop and change us).
I need quiet to be loud. I know that I am called to be a content provider, called to thought leadership. In other words, I’m called to ultimately NOT be quiet. But it’s when I’m quiet that I get interesting: God speaks to me there. It’s in the quiet that I dwell on the thoughts that you enjoy reading here. I have nothing to say if I haven’t taken the time to reflect on and receive content! Though we aren’t all called to thought leadership, we cannot forgo the disciplines that nurture that calling (just because I’m not called to be an Olympic runner doesn’t mean that I don’t run at all). We all have been given another breathe today, we’ve all been given a mind and a heart and soul to grow bigger and reach deeper.
So, the next time you hear me talking but really not saying anything please tell me in a hilarious accent to go be quiet.
(For ladies especially, I recommend this book about quiet: Gift From the Sea. I read it every year and always find something new)