I dream about my Dad pretty often. The day of his funeral the Louisiana sky opened and cried down so much rain that the next day I had to leave his graveside with him unburied because the ground was saturated with heaven’s sorrow. For a long time after that I kept dreaming about him at the funeral, how we would follow a hearse on winding roads through old cities and through the countryside but never arrive at the cemetery. Sometimes we would be following the casket on wheels, sometimes it outran us, but neither us nor Dad ever reached the cemetery. These dreams persisted until my brother assured me that we had indeed buried Dad. After that, slowly, I began to dream of him as I prefer to keep him in my memory, healthy and sharp. And smiling.
He came to me in this state a few nights ago. He walked up beside me and spoke into my ear, like he did whenever he wanted to tell me something he thought to be very important. Many times it was something simple enough for a child to understand, but profound enough to make an adult ponder it quietly for a week, not only being able to recall it years later, but to explain how it had influenced their life.
“Zane, don’t talk so much.”
He said it gently in a half whispered tone with his eyebrows raised in order to open his eyes wider as he peered over his glasses, his forehead wrinkling except for that one spot that looked like a dent. I used to focus on it when he was preaching, the fan above the pulpit chopping the light so it flashed like a beacon. He wasn’t angry at me. He wasn’t even reprimanding me for having talked to much in the past. He was telling me what he could about something up ahead of us as we walked. That’s all he said, “Zane, don’t talk so much.” Then he slipped back into the great cloud of witnesses. I kept walking.
I’ve thought quite a bit about what he said. And what he used to say. And the scriptures he used to back it up.
“God gave you two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. You need to listen and watch twice as much as you talk.” He used to say. He also used to say “Shut up and listen.” It depended on his mood. I mean my attitude. He was right, most of the trouble I’ve gotten into over the years has been from talking too much. Or for talking at the wrong time.
A lot can be said about keeping your mouth shut. My pastor once preached for an hour and a half about “Letting Your Words Be Few.” I’ve also thought about some of the scriptures Dad used to reference when reminding me to hush. Here is a list (not exhaustive) of a few scriptures that deal directly with talking and talking to much.
Eccelesiastes 5:2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. 3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.
Proverbs 17:27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. 28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
Proverbs 12:6 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grevious words stir up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.
Proverbs 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. 8 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Matthew 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. 36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement.
Proverbs 16:28 A forward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
Proverbs 11:12 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbor: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace. 13 A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
Job lamented to his friends, Job 13:5 O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom.
Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
I was going to wrap this up in a nice package with something like, “Maybe you don’t know what it tastes like to stick your foot in your mouth…”, but I think I’ve already said too much.