Balancing Act

I didn’t find my voice until I was 47. It was a decisive moment and the first time I stood up for myself as God whispered in my heart that I did not have to allow what was happening. This was preempted by an accident that I call my wake-up call.

I whispered a lot growing up, even to my mom when my siblings were around. This one little thing about me drove my brother Butch crazy. I can look back and see how shy I was most of my life. Sitting in the back of the room, just listening to everyone else, trying not to be noticed or called on, became my main goal in most group settings.

I got good at listening, but I was too preoccupied with my fear of being called on to pay close enough attention to what was being said most days. Then comes that moment, you know, when you realize if they called on you, would you even know what they were talking about? That is when I started listening closer, just in case.

In God’s divine sense of humor, He began preparing me for public speaking through my jobs. First, when I had to give presentations or stand up and tell something about myself in a networking group. Then, through my job as a newspaper reporter and photographer. I had to attend meetings, conduct interviews and ask questions, even when I was just the photographer. My mom used to say she wished she would be a fly on the wall to hear me speak.

Today, I use my voice to pray for others, praise God in all circumstances, and advocate for other women who need hope and healing. On occasion, I even speak to groups. Do I still get nervous? Yes. But I don’t allow that to stop me anymore. My relationship with God makes all the difference. I rely on the Holy Spirit to help me and give me the words and courage to step out in faith.

Now, I have been working on being a better listener. Listening is a form of love. I want to listen to understand, not just respond. Now that I have found my voice, I find it harder not to speak too quickly. I know my tongue is something that I not only use for good things but can also be harmful if I am not careful and take time to pause before allowing my words to spew.

Listening is a big part of our conversations with God. Sometimes I talk too much and must remind myself to stop and give God a chance to speak.

“Do you know why we only have one mouth and two ears? Because we are supposed to listen twice as much as we talk.” This is a quote attributed to Epictetus, a Greek philosopher.

James also has a few things to say about speaking less. Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19, NLT). I, for one, have said many things I wish I could take back. Whispering, “help me, Holy Spirit,” aids me in this endeavor.

James also says the tongue is like a rudder, a bit, and a spark. It may be one of the smallest organs in the body, but like the rudder makes a huge ship turn, a bit directs a horse, and a tiny spark can set a forest on fire, the tongue is more than capable of causing a lot of damage. It has similar control over everything a person is and does (ESV Study Bible). He compares someone who speaks both blessings and curses to a tree yielding two different kinds of fruit (v 9). Just as no tree produces two types of fruit, a true believer would not give blessings to God and curses toward others made in His image (ESV Study Bible).

The book of Proverbs also has much to say about how words are used. I recently found four categories for how the tongue is used in Proverbs in the Chronological Life Application Study Bible: The caring tongue, the controlled tongue, the conniving tongue, and the careless tongue. What we say and how we say it sometimes affects people more than other actions.

Both listening and speaking are balancing acts that God can help us master.

“in quietness and trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15, ESV, emphasis mine).

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