Most of us appreciate a good conversation with a close friend and the nourishment these talks provide. The opportunity to share what’s going on in our lives, to express our thoughts and feelings, and of course to have a laugh or two, is precious indeed. But have you ever considered visiting with a friend and spending that time together in total silence? Hard to imagine. Even the briefest lull in a conversation usually makes us squirm. Instead of accepting these moments and letting them breathe, we too often feel compelled to fill the air with words. I think this is why my quieter friends don’t invite me fishing.
The Bible is filled with admonitions against talking too much. Consider these examples: “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise;” (Proverbs 10:19) “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;” (Proverbs 17:28a) and “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 29:20) We aspire to learn from such insights, yet so often we fall short in practice.
The following story portrays an inviting picture of how things could be different if we but heeded these valuable truths. Years ago, I heard an interview with Peter Fonda, son of legendary actor Henry Fonda, in which he recalls the days he spent as a young boy in his father’s workshop, located behind their Beverly Hills home. He tells how his father loved to spend his days there working away on various projects. Routinely, on Saturdays, Henry Fonda’s lifelong friend, fellow actor Jimmy Stewart, would amble into the workshop. With an understated nod of greeting, he’d walk to the far end of the workbench and begin fiddling with some undertaking of his own. Now the fascinating part of all this, aside from the concept of two celebrated actors spending their Saturdays tinkering in a backyard workshop, was that they worked side-by-side in complete silence the entire time. Late in the day, Jimmy Stewart would set his work down, head for the door, and mutter something like, “See you Hank.” To which, without so much as lifting an eyebrow, Henry Fonda would reply, “So long, Jimmy.” Then right back to work he’d go. Three words each. That was it! Their bond of friendship was so evident and so strong, no other words were needed. It was enough just to be in each other’s presence, quietly enjoying the day.
Ever since I first heard this story, its tender sentiment has been turning in my mind, and has made a profound impression on me. So much so that, lately, I’ve been delving back into the book of Proverbs. It has much to say about babbling fools. And I have much to learn. Now, to my friends who know me, I make no promises, but I find that a fresh resolve to regulate my words has recently emerged. So without further ado…(fade to silence).
By the way, I am available to go fishing.
I hope this encourages you to find comfort in the silence today.
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