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The right response

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

My father once described himself as having the “gift of gab,” which means to speak with eloquence and fluency. Grandma Fannie has told me stories of Daddy in his college years when he used to garner the attention of crowds during the early ’70s as he shared passionate speeches. With my father’s known oratorical skills in my blood, there is not a question of where I got my love for talking and communication. It is rare that I am speechless. I suppose I pride myself in having the right response. I feel a bit of a sense of inadequacy when I am in situations when I do not know what to say. Yet, I am learning that it is not always necessary for me to respond with my words.

Since the beginning of this year, I have found myself in a divine training program of what is appropriate. My times in prayer have become times of revisiting the words I speak and the actions I have taken. I feel God has been urging me to do less speaking and more contemplation. I can be too quick to give an answer when perhaps I should have considered a bit.

Whenever I receive unexpected news, I always want to share something that will supposedly “help” the individual. The good Christian that I am starts to search for scriptures that are appropriate to the occasion. I do not like awkward silences. I attempt to fill the awkwardness of the moment with words that will vanquish the distress.

Recently, I stopped short of that usual reaction and I paused and quieted myself. I realized that what was about to come out of my mouth was more of me playing the rescuer. The person on the other end of the phone did not need me. She really needed God to show up and fix her situation. She may have reached out to me, but my role was really to bring the Healer’s attention to the place where she was hurting. My words would not be as weighty as my wail.

As Samuel’s mother Hannah prayed to the Lord in 1 Samuel chapter 1, the prophet Eli watched her mouth, but the scriptures say that “her voice could not be heard.” Her words could not be found, but God heard her heart’s petition.

This story demonstrates to me that finding words to speak or seeking words for explanation is the wrong preoccupation. In times when a heart is distressed, it is best to cry out to God to bring His attention to the place that is in need of repair, instead of being so hasty to share what we think is showing consideration and care. Take a moment to listen in the silence and then lament. Lamenting is as powerful a response to pain and loss than any words we can say.

We seem to be a nation searching for the fixes to these overlapping crises. The Bible gives us examples of how to respond. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, urged Israel to call for the wailing women so that they may “take up a wail” for the people. The deep cry of the mourners is described as a skill, which means that the skilled ones got results. Are we not a nation in need of results?

As babies, before our words could form or we could explain our desires, we cried to bring attention to our needs. When we were hungry, we cried. Let us pretend that we no longer have the use of our words to tell our Heavenly Father how hungry we are. Cry out to Him. We are hungry for results. The Omnipotent One is the only one who appropriately responds.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of Nonprofit Leadership and Management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Connect with her via iamquawanna@thebiggerme.net or via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.