“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope.” – Psalm 130:5
In 2001, my grandfather lost his words.
He had been visiting family out of town when he had a stroke, and fortunately they were able to get him proper medical care that saved his life and prevented much long-term damage. What they weren’t able to prevent, however, was extensive injury to the language centers of his brain. He had spent his life preaching, teaching and sharing gifted words with thousands, and now the words simply wouldn’t come.
Experts say that in cases like this, the mind is functioning just fine. The person understands things perfectly, knows exactly what they want to say, but just like an arm that’s fallen asleep simply won’t respond to the brain’s attempts to move it, so it is that people with damaged language centers simply cannot cause their words to come out correctly.
In time, he has made much improvement in his ability to communicate. He has gotten back many words and is able to share his heart and get along well in everyday life. The thing is, when talking with my grandfather, there are two ways to go about it and neither one is quick.
The first reminds me of party games like Taboo or Catchphrase, where he begins to speak in broken sentences and I try to guess what words he is trying to say.
“Well the other day, I was at…”
“The doctor’s office?”
“The grocery store?”
“Well YES! I was at the church, and I was talking to, to, to…”
“No, not her, the other one…”
“YES! I was talking to John, and…”
You get the idea.
The guessing keeps things interesting I suppose, and it certainly helps the conversation move more quickly. Lately though, I’ve been approaching our talks a different way.
Rather than jump in with my best guesses as to what words my grandfather is searching for, I simply listen. I don’t try to offer suggestions or help him along, don’t try to make the conversation move faster. I just wait and let him speak.
I use the time to look more closely into his eyes, eyes that have seen wonders all across the globe, have cried tears of sadness and joy for the souls of many, have seen clearly to the root of all sorts of problems and found creative solutions. I wonder what my eyes will have seen when and if I reach his age.
I look at his skin, wrinkles and spots showing signs of his 84 years and innumerable cycles of sun and shade from South Carolina to South America. I wonder how my skin will look when and if I get to 84.
I look at his facial expressions, brow furrowed in concentration, cheeks twitching as his brain searches its dimly lit corridors, searching for words in the dark. I wonder if I will respond as gracefully as he has to the inevitable trials and setbacks I’ll experience when and if I live as long as him.
Mostly though, I use the time to thank God for a grandfather who has been such a blessing to so many through the years, and such an example for me of true discipleship. I think of what a gift it is to have such a good relationship with him, and to even have the time to invest in sitting and listening to his stories.
I wonder if my grandchildren will someday do the same for me.
In these moments, I am learning that there is something powerful happening in me when I take the time to sit with my grandfather and simply wait for him. I’m learning that when I rush ahead and try to squeeze out answers so I can move on with my life, I am missing a great opportunity to not only bless him, but to let something change deep within my own heart.
I am learning that when I simply wait, I get a little bit freer of the chains of busyness and over-urgency that saturate our culture and my everyday life. I am able to be more settled in my own heart, more peaceful, more calm, and it is in those moments of quiet patience that I am often more able to connect with God.
I am also learning that while there is great power in celebration and pronouncement of the goodness of God and the great things He’s done, there is also often just as much power in simply being still in His presence. Whether in times of personal prayer or corporate worship, when I charge ahead too quickly and never close my mouth, there is a piece and a peace that is missing.
I am learning that sometimes my greatest act of worship to God is simply being still before Him, not demanding He deliver answers right away. Sometimes I don’t need to remind Him of His promises, sing a new song or quote Scripture out loud. Those are all good things, but sometimes I simply need to wait, not because He needs more time to answer, but because I need to clear out the clutter in my heart to make room for what He’s preparing for me.
This week, I hope you’ll take time to seek Him in stillness; not just His answers or His help, Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to quiet your mind and calm your soul, and be blessed as He does His work in the stillness, creating sacred space for you to encounter God.