On Blurting Things Out

[Peter] blurted this out without thinking. (Luke 9:33b, The Message)

The past 26 hours, give or take, have had me thinking a lot about the relationship between listening and speaking.  I was complemented, following the 10:45 service yesterday, for a pastoral visit I had made in which I listened much more than I spoke.  Apparently, this was counter to the previous experience of these folks in previous parishes.

Immediately, my mind was flooded with my experience with the only GOE (General Ordination Exam) question that I failed in which we were asked to respond to a terminally ill, 32-year old mother of two small children’s concern, “do I have enough faith,” as it seems her “friends” have decided that she just isn’t praying hard enough to be healed.  My answer took the form of one-side of a two-way conversation between this woman and the chaplain, and I tried to show the ability to and the importance of shutting up and listening in pastoral care.  I failed.  You can read why here, but suffice it to say, I would have been better off giving the reader both sides of the conversation.

I continued to ponder the power of listening and speaking, more specifically my general discomfort with speaking on the fly, as I listened to interview after interview in the run up to and aftermath of yesterday’s big game.  My colleague, The Reverend Tim Schenk, has a quality article on Ray Lewis’ theological viewpoint, so I’ll skip the content of it and instead focus my attention on the fact that speaking off the cuff is hard.  You don’t have much time to think through your response and yet, especially in the case of celebrities, your answer will be forever etched in microchip as a video file and YouTube link.

It all came full circle as I read, yet again, Luke’s take on the Transfiguration, which will be our gospel lesson for Sunday, and that great scene in which Peter, dumbfounded by what he is seeing, says to Jesus, “You know what?!?  We should build some houses!  A memorial to this amazing event.”  The NRSV says that Peter said this “not knowing what he said.”  I much prefer Eugene Peterson’s version, “He blurted this out without thinking.”  

More often than not, we tend to follow the model of Peter and blurt out the first thing that comes into our brains.  Pastors do it.  Friends do it.  Acquaintances do it.

two ears one mouth

The truth is, we have two ears and one mouth
We should listen twice as much as we speak.

I’m certain it isn’t the point of the Transfiguration lesson, but it is a great life lesson that we can glean from the larger story (which I’ll deal with later this week).  Ultimately, James has it right in his epistle (1:19), “we should be quick to listen and slow to speak.”


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