For years I heard the maxim: “Only the one who has learned to be silent is prepared to speak.” I would also add: “Only the one who has learned to be silent is prepared to lead.” Think about it:
- Paul, after his conversion, spent three years in a silent retreat in Arabia.
- Jesus spent thirty years of silence until he opened his mouth and began to teach.
- John the Baptist spent his adult life in the desert before he brought a word from God.
- Ezekiel said, “For seven days I sat in silence and was dumbfounded.”
- Job seven days in silence until he opened opened his mouth in anguish.
- Habbakkuk and Samuel waited before the Lord before they spoke.
How can we learn to lead out of silence in the midst of our noisy world and churches? Slowly practice silence…. before, during, and after our words. This is a life work, and it can only be learned through practice, endurance, mentoring, and listening to people from other church traditions. The people we lead will be grateful. Remember: Silence is a language of great eloquence. It is, as John of the Cross wrote almost 500 years ago, God’s first language.