Fire and bones

 But if I say, "I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. [Jeremiah 20:9 NIV]

Photo by Lon Martin via Flickr Creative Commons License

A friend of mine posted this verse from Jeremiah the other day, and I've been thinking about it ever since. Thinking about fire and words and how it seems that we flip between two extremes, letting our own words burn inside or letting them out to lay waste and burn others. I know Jeremiah is speaking about prophetic things and Words from God; I lay no claims to being a prophet or hearing Words, but don't we all still sometimes walk that line of trying to figure out when to speak up and when to shut up?

We'd speak up, but then we'd know where we differ from our friends and isn't it safer to keep the silence and the friendship intact?

We'd speak up, but we aren't articulate like that person over there.

We'd speak up, but what if we're wrong?

We'd speak up, but we're confident in our stance and don't want to start an argument.

We'd speak up, but we're ashamed of our brokenness.

We'd speak up, but what if our words aren't worth saying?

We'd speak up, but we feel alone.

We'd speak up, but we don't want to waste our time.

We'd speak up, but we don't trust others to hold us and our words gently...or maybe we're afraid that we won't be gentle with theirs.

I learned early on how to be silent; I think that many of us do. We hold our words in; we stifle our thoughts, our feelings, our opinions, and our dreams. Everyone else seems so certain, we just defer to them because it's simpler than risking words. Easier than risking laying our feelings bare.

I was good with that for a long time. The silent introvert, hovering on the edges, never really taking a stand, never saying anything of great importance because the specter of disagreement was a frightening shade.

But then there's that fire burning within us.

Shut it up too long and it melts our bones, it wearies us. We exist as incomplete people because it's the being known that completes us. And yes, disagreement bears the potential to melt the bones and wear us out; I've been there, most of us have been there. But there's always that potential for new life to flourish when the dead has been burned away, when the heat brings new seeds to life, when the air and the sun can finally reach down and touch new growth.

I'm weary of keeping silence in the name of keeping peace.

I want to speak up, to wade into disagreement with my friends, trusting that the God of peace can breathe unity in the midst of all our disagreement, trusting that friendship doesn't call us to be mental clones.

I want to speak up, in all my inarticulate fumbling, trusting that it is the heart that reaches out, that other hearts will understand.

I want to speak up, even if I'm wrong, because if we all waited for absolute certainty little of value would ever get said.

I want to speak up, but be humble enough to listen.

I want to speak up, to share the brokenness and the being made whole so that others can see hope.

I want to speak up, because we all have worthless words sometimes, but more often they are the words that someone needs. And we don't know the difference unless we speak them.

I want to speak up, because that's how I become known.

I want to speak up, because I don't want my thoughts to waste away.

I want to speak up. To hold my own words gently, an offering of warmth and not a wildfire of judgement.

It's time to speak up, because that's where community forms.


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