I have a tough time remaining quiet. Even when I have resolved to remain silent, before I know it words can escape and be given life.
One of my God given gifts is that I am a strategist, which means that I am able to quickly see my way through things. And while this gift is a blessing, and it allows me to rapidly discern solutions and outcomes, it can also mean that if I am not prudent I can move forward faster than is advisable.
While I do think it is generally positive to share what God has placed on my mind and heart, I readily admit that factors such as my timing, or the words I choose, or my tone, could always be better.
Scripture repeatedly highlights the importance of taming our tongues.
James wrote eloquent, instructive words about the power of speech. And how we need to tame and control whatever comes out of our mouths. Because while our words can be life-giving and encouraging, they can also be incredibly damaging and discouraging.
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! …” (James 3:1-5)
These warnings echo throughout Scripture reminding us that, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” (Proverbs 21:23)
And yet, in the Book of Esther we see Esther being called to break her silence and speak,
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
Esther’s response to her uncle’s challenge brilliantly exemplifies how to tame the tongue.
When her uncle first approached her about speaking to the king, she initially wanted to remain silent. She is fully aware of the inherent danger in anyone approaching the king, and fears for her life.
But she also recognizes that she has the unique opportunity to exert influence and alter the destiny of her people, and she is finally persuaded to speak.
But once Esther decides to move forward, she exhibits incredible discernment. She does not let her fear continue to silence her. Nor does she immediately rush to the king and spew out everything that is on her mind and heart.
Instead, Esther chooses a middle path. She is patient. She takes the time to pray. She fasts. She requests others to pray and fast with for her. She waited three days.
She took time to consider how she should proceed. And to discern a plan that allowed the best chance to successfully navigate the treacherous negotiations.
Esther shows us how to remain silent.
But she also teaches us how to speak.
Through first remaining silent. And then taking time to pray, to reflect, to discern.
And then, and only then, rising up to speak.
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Photo credits: Jason Brisco and Toa Heftiba, from Unsplash