Forty-seven years ago today, I made my grand entrance into this world. I don’t remember anything about that day, but since I was the first born of my mom and dad and also the first grand-child on my mother’s side, they said it was a very exciting day. That all happened in Wilmington, North Carolina. Here I am forty-seven years later in Nashville, Tennessee with an awesome wife, five amazing children and a wonderful son-in-law. I can truly say that God has blessed me.
I was thinking yesterday about what I might write about on my birthday. They say, as you get older you gain wisdom through your personal experiences. Well, if that’s the case, there are a lot of things that have happened in my life in the last several years that I could write about. So, what could I say from all of those events? What is it that I’ve learned to say after so many different life circumstances? I’m a minister of thirty-three years, so what are some words of wisdom I can offer now?
Honestly, at forty-seven, it’s not what I’ve learned to say, it’s what I’ve learned NOT to say. Instead of having more to say through all of my personal experiences, I find myself talking less and listening more. I don’t really care for the sound of my voice, so it doesn’t bother me if it’s not heard in a room of many voices. There was a time that I needed to have the last say, because that means you’ve closed the deal, but as I’ve gotten older, that just doesn’t matter to me. I can be right and be quiet. I don’t have to be loud to prove a point…somehow in time, things seem to just work out.
When I council people, I try to make sure and get them talking so I can learn everything I need to know about them by listening. I don’t spend the entire time showing them how much I know about the Bible or whatever the reason is why we’re there. Whether they are married or single, if I can get them to talk long enough, many times the problem becomes very obvious and the solution is not too far behind. And guess what, if I’m asked a question that I don’t know the answer, I’m alright to answer, I don’t know. There was a time in my ministry I thought I had to know all the answers and if I didn’t, I should still act like I did. Now that I’m older, I don’t have all the answers and I am totally cool with saying that. The Bible tells us to study to show thyself approved, not talk to show thyself approved. Study more…talk less.
One thing that hasn’t changed and probably never will in any of our lives, is people criticizing us and saying things that are untrue. When I was younger and I found out someone was doing that, I would hunt them down and let them know I didn’t appreciate what they were doing. The problem was, I got tired of chasing down every rumor. I wore myself out trying to straighten all my critics out. Yes, it hurts our feelings, but all we can do is be who we know we are and keep moving on. There are some former friends I could call and give them an ear full, but if I have to do a lot of talking to keep a relationship alive, I’m not so sure it was ever that strong to begin with.
Even Jesus was faced with people lying and criticizing Him and His response was amazing. He never opened His mouth. Even though He was innocent, He chose to be silent and let time prove the truth. As hard as that is to do, it’s the right thing to do. There are times you want to speak up for yourself, but I’ve learned that nothing goes in your favor any better than time. Hush and wait. Your response to that will tell you how old you are.
So, after forty-seven years, I have a lot less to say than I did after twenty-seven years. It’s not about knowing what to say, it’s about knowing when to say it and sometimes it’s best to be silent. As crazy as it sounds, it takes time to learn how to talk less. Sometimes the greatest response is in no response and I’m still learning what NOT to say.