Written by Thomas Hill
There’s a line from the popular TV show The Office in which Michael Scott, the lead character, says, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence, and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way. Like an improv conversation. An improversation.” In this one line, Michael unknowingly sums up our generation’s tendencies to ignore patience, gentleness, and self-control.
I tend to plow when talking to people. Picture this: My mouth is a train that isn’t on a track. Instead, it has some form of off-road tires and a plow attachment on the front. The train careens through open plains with nothing in its way, paving its own path. I don’t think before I talk. I just talk. I say what I am thinking at any particular moment. I surprise myself.
For some reason, I enjoy the mystery of not knowing what I’ll say next.
I may be toodling along, conversing normally with people, when all of a sudden I sense one person pull back. I stop talking, wondering what went wrong. I retrace my words and realize I have plowed right into a thick wooded area and been sharply halted by layers upon layers of hurt shaped into jagged granite. My words have cut deep, even though I didn’t even notice at first.
We are all, in our own ways, trains careening through wide open plains. However there comes a time where our words collide with someone we care about. Our lack of patience, gentleness, and self-control starts to hurt those around us.
Read through Jesus’ interactions with people (especially with Peter). Jesus slows our trains, puts some tracks in front of us, and sees us for who we truly are: lost children. Jesus steps into our lives and forces us to carefully process our words, our motives, and, ultimately, our hurt.
In Matthew 18, Jesus calls us to “become like children.” One of the attributes I’ve observed while conversing with children is the seemingly immense length of time it takes for them to spit out a few words strung into a coherent sentence. Their stammering and stuttering can be adorable, but it can also be maddening when all you want is an answer to a simple question.
What if, when Jesus calls us to “become like children,” He’s really calling us to slow down our trains, take off the off-road tires, and start thinking about what we say? What if he’s calling us to learn how to talk slowly?
I believe God is shaping a generation of people with minds like trains who desire to move slowly on His “tracks” – His desires and purposes.
As Proverbs says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your tracks straight.”