Shut up

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

(Note: This is an entry I wrote three years ago and which has finally found its way to my blog.)

Not that I don’t have anything to say, but I am not so much of a talker. Though I’ve improved a bit and learned the art of starting and engaging in conversations, the old me asserts itself from time to time. I could be the seatmate who wouldn’t speak unless talked to. I could hitch into your car and we could drive for hours without hearing from me. We could dine together and you couldn’t even hear me chew. My silence gives me a strange sense of comfort that I could stand being mum for a considerable time, being virtually alone and left to my own thoughts.

What people don’t know is that my mind is an active field where thoughts whiz fast, buzz around, and willfully hover for I could only tell how long. Varied topics hop in, drawing my opinion and coloring my imagination, and hop out only to give space to yet other timely subjects.

Outwardly, I am silent. Inwardly, I talk non-stop.

I have never been bothered by this mental blabbering. In fact, I find it cathartic and healthy. If you stop talking to yourself, you are about as good as a robot, randomly walking the earth with no connection to his inner being. The danger in this mental blabbering, however, is that if it goes too much, it evolves from being cathartic to unsettling, from being healthy to distracting. The mind can barely contain the busyness and the noise, which could be as loud and disturbing as the combined sounds of gunshots, automobile engines, dog barks, and everything else that keeps you awake at night. So in time, the mind would just get tired.

The past months I was at my loudest, mainly provoked by some plans that didn’t merit fruition. I talked to myself, assessed the events, and figured what went wrong. This was while I talked to God, asked why they happened, and pleaded to let me know what in the first place I should be doing.

Praying came off as the most natural thing to do. I thought that over myself and a few people, God should be the first one I should talk to. He would sure reply, I believed. But what I hadn’t expected was that God would choose to be silent. Gradually getting impatient, I prayed some more. I talked to Him more.

Instead of directions and leading, what I got was a busy tone. Either God was completely ignoring me or wasn’t hearing me, I thought. But it was not the time to give up. So even though my mind and soul were both tired, I did what I am good at: pestering—I kept pestering God. “Hello, God! Are you there?” I went on like a kid. “C’mon, talk to me. Hear me, please.”

I couldn’t tell how mentally loud I was, but I am sure I was too loud that if I could, I would get out of myself and go to someplace peaceful. I couldn’t stand myself.

Turned out God couldn’t as well. Maybe tired of my gibberish talks, He finally bellowed at me. “Ssshhhh . . .  You talk too much,” I sensed Him speaking. “Can you stop for a while and just listen?”

That did it for me.

It wasn’t the answer I was expecting, but it did reduce me to silence.  He was, all along, talking to me. I just couldn’t hear because I was so into my talking, my inner voice drowning out God’s. I decided to shut up right then.

I wouldn’t say it was easy to stay silent. Being naturally worry freak, I’m more inclined to panic, to complain, or to nag. But there was something liberating in keeping still. Aside from enabling me to listen, it brought back my focus and upped my sensitivity to discern God’s leading. Only then was I able to release the fears that had been terrorizing me and begin to see things in light of His will.

Logic tells us that after talking, we shut up and listen. Whether or not we’re expecting a response, it is how to properly communicate. It is therefore rude, unwise, and unethical if we continuously chatter or cut the other end mid-sentence. It’s likely that the other end will put himself on hold until we’re done. The only problem is that if he loses his mood, interest, or train of thoughts, we might not get him to talk again, so we lose whatever chance we have to hear what he’s going to say.

Now apply that to the most important of our conversations — prayer.

Most of us think that when we pray, we’ve already done our part. Wrong. We’ve only done half of the job. If we are serious about seeking God, we should communicate with Him like any logical, respectful, and sane person would. Pray, be still, then listen.

God might be talking to you right now, but you can’t hear because you’re rattling on and on and on. Remain silent for a while and listen. The word silent, by the way, forms the word listen. They are related. Fact is, they are married.

When I look back, I hope I sat still and listened, so I wouldn’t have to spend my time, resources, and energy on something that in the end amounted to nothing. I wish I knew how to shut up. The discipline of stillness was completely foreign to me until I was placed in a situation where there were no other options but to remain silent and to listen. Thankfully, God is unlike any of us. He did not give up on me and chose to wait until I could listen. Certainly, He thought I was worth some more tries.


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