Thursday, August 22, 2019

Seasons for Speaking and Silence

Some seasons are for speaking; some for silence.

Each way I turn, these days, the tape tightens on my mouth.

The message was clear, this spring, when I went forward at revival meetings--the minister's wife!--that what I thought was my problem wasn't the issue at all. Instead, this word: I was to stop being afraid to speak.

Yet--silence. But not because of fear.

I can't tell all the stories about my adult children because they are not children but adults. Decisions, changes, rearranging. Work, school, and travel. Even romantic drama, some of which keeps me on my knees and some that makes me laugh till I cry. We Skype and scheme and talk at the kitchen counter in the late evening. I write it all down in a notebook with yellow pages.

Other people's secrets ricochet in my head. One of these days, I think, they are going to pop right out of my mouth. Sometimes, their private sins finally become public knowledge. "Terrible," people say. "Shocking." No, I think, blessed relief. I no longer have to carry this secret. Now everyone knows.

The minister's wife "went forward," as I said, which is something we don't usually do, because going forward is for people who are about 12 and "under conviction," or for those unstable people who are always "struggling."

Well, this minister's wife feels like she's about 12, under conviction, unstable, and struggling. Actually, she feels she's about 7, pounding her useless little fists on a laughing big brother's leg as he dangles her doll just out of reach. Feeling powerless and helpless makes her mad, and she gets all feisty and fierce, lashing out at systems, structures, situations, and a silent Deity that are all much taller and bigger than she.

But it isn't time to speak. The tape is tightly wound.

I was made to be a teller of stories, I think. So why this silent season?

So few stories are entirely my own; so many require another's permission. Their "not yet" must be respected.

Other stories can't be told until someone else is dead.

Still others simply need a safe place to rest until the situation is resolved.

Others beg to be told so that justice can be served, but timing is crucial. So I wait.

Ideas are growing; fruit and conclusions are forming, but not yet ready to pick.

Pages turn, and new chapters emerge, but the ending is so far off that none of it makes sense.

Josh Harris talked a lot, for years. People listened to him. Then, when it all went down in flames, he kept talking when he should have been silent for once.

Similar things happen in the Mennonite world. Trusted people turn out to be unreliable, misguided, dark, preying on the vulnerable. Almost without exception, these trusted people were the ones who talked a lot via articles, sermons, and seminars.

Speaking is dangerous. Silence is safe. Right?

If I don't speak, I won't ever deceive and disappoint, manipulate and mislead. Plus, I won't get in trouble--a blessed prospect. Surely that's the wisest course.

But I also remember those women in Pennsylvania who came to my book signing, standing in line with patient determination. They were plain and plump, in dark polyester dresses, with black strings on their white coverings. I felt compelled to extra propriety. They would never need to go forward at revival meetings--I was sure of that.

"Please don't ever stop writing about what it's like being a minister's wife," they said, one by one, all independently of each other. Their hands clutched mine; their eyes told me things the words weren't allowed to convey. I was too stunned to reply with more than a nod, tears, and holding their hands a bit longer.

If someone speaks the things you aren't allowed to say or don't even know how to shape or form, a weight is taken off and you can breathe. To say the words and lift the weight might be a calling of its own, dangerous but desperately needed.

Sometimes not speaking brings a curse, and the truth in darkness grows shaggy and large, with sharp teeth, gnawing in the night at the back of your head. "If you tell, I will destroy you," it whispers. When the gnawing teeth finally cut through the last layer of skull and skin, the morning light shines in. The dark truth shrinks into something of normal size. It can be held and examined and laid to rest. "What was I so afraid of?" you wonder.

Earlier this month I walked into a small room, plopped on a couch, and dramatically poured at least a gallon of my own secrets and stories into the open hands of three other women.

They held my splashing words with care and didn't flinch when they were boiling hot. Then they carefully placed the words in jars and sealed them.

The ricocheting in my head calmed down. The things I knew and felt no longer pushed my skull toward bursting.

I drove away into the wider world, the silence winding once again around my head. But I was going to be all right, and when the time was ripe, the tape would tear and words would fountain everywhere.


  1. I love your openness and honesty, Dorcas. Sometimes others only need to be able to voice, to be heard. And we are called to be that “safe place.” It is a place of trust, not betrayal.

    You said so much without revealing the confidences given to you for safekeeping.

    I have a friend facing a terminal condition. His mantra is “Everything’s going to be all right.” And it is.

    1. Good words. I very much want to be that safe place and person, but sometimes I think it will be the end of me.

  2. Hard stuff. But as I’m sure you know, sometimes speaking out must be done in order to protect the innocent.
    Blessings as you wait on Him and His timing.

    1. Yes. That kind of speaking out takes a courage all its own.

  3. Such a heart felt sharing of the truth that many people have. You are a gift to many Dorcas.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Lois!

  4. Thank you Dorcas. There are times when I wish I could share what is truly on my heart with my small group at ladies Bible study. But to share would most assuredly cause division with me on one side alone and possibly having leadership approach my husband and telling him to "do something about his wife". No it's not a sin matter but more of me trying to live out Jesus's teachings and living separate from the world.
    Thank you again Dorcas.

    1. I hope you find a group where it's safe to share. This sounds really hard.

  5. You always give me so much to think about! I have been pondering some very similar things lately. God has been showing me that all these years, I should have been speaking up instead of keeping it all in in some instances and keeping my mouth shut where I whined and judged and complained in others. Relationship with the Holy Spirit is so key, I am learning. He's the one who gives you the red or green light.

  6. Wow! Thank you so much. I dont know how to put these things into words so i love when others do that for me.

  7. "To everything there is a season!"

  8. Thank you so much. God's timing is always perfect. I really needed this today, every single word. You are a blessing to me, over and over again!

  9. Maybe it is time for fiction :) I love your writings!

    1. Ha ha, yes, believe me I'm jotting lots of notes.

  10. This is excellent, and exactly how I feel. Now I wish we could have a heart to heart chat!

  11. This is so real! Sometimes I wonder when it will be my turn to tell my story, other times I think it really doesn't matter if it dies with Me. And when I'm thinking the straightest, I know that either way, it doesn't matter as long as I've got Jesus for my story-keeper.

  12. Wow, you were serious about the time for silence, I guess. I keep checking back for new blog posts and rereading this again. Well, it is a good word for me, I must admit, as I have need keeping certain silences myself these days. But I do look forward to the time when you can resume storytelling.