Chapter Three: Perfect the Art of the Pause

Written by: Angela Mercer

Chapter 3

I have never been good with pausing. Whether it is thinking through a solution or pausing in a game for the right strategy. In fact, I am so not good at pausing that my co-worker has called me “shot-gun Ange” at times, and we have joked that “it is a good thing that shot-gun isn’t loaded”! I can be trigger-happy. I like to make snap decisions and “get it done”.

I also like to talk. If I could bring you back to my childhood you would say that I have learned the art of the pause more then I think I have. I used to talk A LOT.

Early on in our marriage my mom once asked me if I was doing OK. She noticed that I just wasn’t as talkative as I used to be. I was actually doing just fine. I had just learned to not monopolize all the conversations. But compared to some people, I still do talk a lot.

My closest friend is very quiet. Until I get her in a car, for a long drive and we get talking about something she is passionate about, she is very quiet. This has been really eye opening for me to understand that people can just be less talkative. They have fewer words to speak in a day. At one time this would have made me very uncomfortable. I feel like people are having a good time when there is lots of conversation. During youth ministry days if I was in a carload of kids and it was quiet I would have assumed they were not having a good time and try to do something to encourage chatter. Now, I realize that chatter isn’t necessarily an indication that people are having a good time. People can be having a good time AND be quiet!

What my friend has also taught me is that if I want to hear her heart, know more about her and what is going on in her world, I need to pause. People who talk a lot and always have something to say can be very quick to monopolize conversation. When there is a pause it makes us uncomfortable and we feel we need to fill in the gap. However, when we do that, we may never really get to know our friends. I love how Karen Ehman references “heart drops”. One of her leaders taught that heart drops are “when someone drops a hint about something deeper going on without coming right out and saying it”. That really impacted me. I wonder how many times I have missed something a friend was trying to tell me because they didn’t have the courage to come right out with it. If I was really listening I may not have missed it.

What’s even worse is we take this same approach to our relationship with God. We get so good at doing all the talking we forget to just listen. To pause. And if I want to know His heart, and what He wants me to do, I have to perfect the art of the pause so that I can hear Him.

Just recently I was driving to someone’s house for coffee and I knew that conversation was going to get heavy. I was already starting to rehearse some of the conversation in my head and I was getting ahead of myself. I began to pray and ask God to guard my mouth. To keep it shut unless I was supposed to say something. I asked him to give me grace and mercy and that I would only say what He wanted me to say. We had such a great conversation that day and God totally clothed me in His grace.

I am learning that at the end of the day, my opinion doesn’t really matter. What really matters is that the people I am with know my love and support. I pray that I will learn to approach every conversation this way. It is a beautiful thing and I believe God is honoured when we do this. I would hate to miss something my friend has to say because I was going on about something that doesn’t matter – just to fill a gap of awkward silence. We need to get comfortable in the silence. We need to become friends with the pause. We’ll never know what we may hear next.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinion. Proverbs 18:2 (NRSV)

Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak …  James 1:19