September 15, 2010

The Ministry of Quiet

 My youngest son, Ryan, has always been known for his quiet attitude. While growing up he would study you with eyes that seemed to take in every detail. In fact, he seemed quite shy, and this caused some concern to his mother and me. How would he survive in a world of brusque actions and extended conversations?
2010 1531 page24Ryan studied diligently and made us proud of him. He was always known for his quiet demeanor in school. One of his teachers mentioned to me that Ryan was a truly great student; but more than that, the other kids respected him for his persistent quietness. Truth be told, we all appreciated his quiet attitude. He wasn’t vocal in class, but his test results affirmed what the teacher already knew. He had great recall. She also mentioned that since he didn’t say much in class, when he did have something to offer, everyone stopped and listened.
Ryan was my buddy when we traveled. Often just the two of us acted as an advanced party to vacation destinations, buying trips and visiting sorties. We often chatted as I drove along. From the back seat I would hear comments like, “There’s a stop sign ahead,” or “Turn your blinker on.” It was always quietly spoken. If I was not in tune with that small voice from over my shoulder, I might’ve missed them altogether.
We traveled thousands of miles together through Europe, England, and the United States. The two of us enjoyed the South Pacific’s unique art and history. I could always count on Ryan’s quiet encounters. Our connection on an emotional level was one most dads would envy. We laughed together, sometimes laughing so hard that tears coursed down our faces. We wept when parting and grieved when losing loved ones. There has always been an acknowledgment of that shared bond of love.
His Silent Ministry
My appreciation of Ryan’s gentle manner was brought home recently when I was recovering from a stroke. I had many visitors while in the hospital. Some tired me more than helped or encouraged me. I was frustrated, couldn’t think clearly at times, and didn’t visit easily with those who dropped by. My frustration mounted by the hour because of my inability to communicate in the way I wanted.

What Do You Think?

1. When have you been ministered to by someone or something that was barely audible? Tell about it briefly.

2. Most people, when they come to visit, feel obligated to say something, anything. Why do you think that is?

What is lost when people attempt to fill all the silence with noise?

In what settings do you most enjoy some sort of quiet time? Do you have to be alone, or can it be experienced in a group?

Surgery was scheduled to clean out a carotid artery that was almost completely occluded. I was in a waiting pattern, a holding pen, a time of reflection about what was going to happen. The doctor happened to mention that about 3 percent of patients who go though this particular surgery don’t survive the procedure. The odds seemed to be in my favor. We all prayed for the best possible outcome.

During this time of undulating uncertainty and definite insecurity, Ryan appeared at my bedside. There was no fanfare, no boisterous laughter or simulated overconfidence; just quiet Ryan, my buddy. My family and friends had all been allowed to visit, which helped to bolster my flagging morale. Ryan’s company was unique. He sat in the hospital chair beside the bed without saying much of anything. After about 20 minutes he said he needed to leave. We had visited without using hardly any words. My spirit was wonderfully lifted and I was truly refreshed and ready for what was ahead.
As I’ve reflected on that visit, I wonder how my visits affect those I seek to encourage. Are my words shouting so loudly that people cannot hear me? Am I really there for the right reason? Have I truly encouraged and helped someone along the way to wellness and wholeness?
Visiting the sick and shut-in is a wonderful ministry. Those personal contacts bring hope and restoration to the soul, and a new determination for a brighter future. Sometimes, just sometimes, could it be that what we don’t say is the most important thing to bring solace to the soul?
There is, said the wise man, “a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Eccl. 3:7). May God give us the wisdom to know the difference.
Clair L. Johnson writes from Ceres, California. This article was published September 16, 2010.