Living in Christ's Presence
’m listening to a book this week written by Dallas Willard and John Ortberg called “Living in Christ’s Presence”. In the book we get to listen to two folks who have the exact opposite personalities. John Ortberg is flamboyant and flashy. He loves a good joke and is great at the telling. His books have flashy and catchy titles like “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat.” They are all best because he knows how to sell! Dallas Willard is quiet, reflective, extremely intellectual, and, if I am honest, a little bit boring. He is said to have written the greatest book everyone has on the shelf, but no one has actually read. Dallas has mentored John for years and John loves to tell Dallas Willard stories. I love hearing them because in the telling you hear the incredible respect that John has for Dallas. Dallas has taught John how to live in Christ.
One story he tells in the book is of a time when Dallas was lecturing, when a young, arrogant college student stood up and irreverently tried to demolish Dallas Willard’s argument. As the young man spoke, his utter arrogance filled the room, and John was foaming at the mouth in anticipation of how Dallas Willard was going to completely annihilate this young man when he got a chance. John couldn’t wait for Dallas to put this young man in his place! But after the young man finally finished his pontificating, instead of undressing this young man theologically, Dallas simply dismissed the hall by saying that he thought this might be a good place to stop for the day.
Afterwards, John ran up to Dallas and said, “Dallas, what were you thinking!? Why didn’t you tear that arrogant cuss apart. There are so many things you could have said. And he so needed it!” And Dallas just quietly turned to John and said, “I was practicing the discipline of not having the last word.”
I don’t know about you but I am sick and tired of folks trying to climb over each other trying to get the last word! Have you noticed that about our world? Someone says something on facebook and you read the comments below the comment and it’s this constant batter…this constant battle… of who gets to say the most and the loudest last. The stream goes on and on and on. No one listening. Just everyone playing a sick and twisted version of whose king of the hill.
Maybe we’d all do better if we just started practicing the discipline of not having the last word.
Maybe more hearts and minds would be changed if we verbally turned the other cheek and just listened for a while. Not listen the way most of us do…trying to figure out what we’re going to say after this joker across the room shuts his “pie hole”…but truly listening to “the other” with a warm and understanding heart.
What would happen to our prayer life if we shared our heart knowing God was listening like that, and then paused and listened as we let God have the last words. What would happen if ½ of our prayer, the best half of it, was spent letting someone greater that we are, someone with a much longer view of things, someone who had been there from the beginning, if that “someone greater” was given the chance to speak.
About ten years ago I went to a birthday party of a little girl who was Native American and from the Lakota tribe. (interesting note here…the Lakota people were named “Sioux” by white folk coming across the prairie. “Sioux” means enemy or fighter. Their name for themselves is “Lakota, or Dakota, or Nakota” and it means “friend.”) At the birthday party I watched as everyone’s attention centered around the little girl. But at one moment, her great grandmother wheeled her chair to the middle of the room, and I marveled at what happened next. The entire covey of humanity stopped talking and turned their full and loving attention to this grandmother. With full respect they let great grandma have the last word.
Maybe the reason God doesn’t speak, is that God is more like this great grandmother than we realize. Maybe God is waiting in the wings for that moment when we stop talking and wisely turn to the eldest one. The one who has lived over the greatest arc of time. The one who has cried more tears than we ever will out of her love for all of us. The one who when she speaks, doesn’t yell, but instead plants wisdom with each brush of the tongue she paints and each breath she gives.
This summer give your mouth a sabbath and take some time letting God, the great grandmother of us all, have the last word!
Your friend and pastor, trying to learn the discipline of letting someone else have the last word, Brook