Posted by: ritagone | October 12, 2016

Words of Wisdom (that we probably won’t listen to)



It’s fitting that this blog is posted on Yom Kippur, the holiest of holy days for many Jewish believers, the day when you pray to God to wipe the slate clean on your sins, atone for your misbehaviors of the past year, and start fresh with a new relationship with your Maker and those around you.

Reading in my wonderful devotional book for this year, “Celtic Daily Prayer,” I was blessed (as I often am by these readings) to come upon this beautiful, short piece by Peter Marshall, Scottish born preacher, Presbyterian pastor and twice chaplain to the U.S. Senate, whose writings always stir and move me:

  “Great questions stand unanswered before us, and defy our best wisdom. Though our ignorance is great, at least we know we do not know. When we don’t know what to say, keep us quiet.”


Taking this brilliant quote apart, I love and appreciate every single segment of it. First of all, the older I get, the more great questions I find stand unanswered before me. I sometimes feel I’m not getting wiser at all as I get older but more aware of just how inadequately I understand the world around me and, what’s even more amazing, how little I understand myself. (Is that considered wisdom? I’m not even sure of that anymore.) I do know that because I have insecurities about my own capabilities, it throws me back more and more into the capable arms of my Savior and my heavenly Father. And that’s never a bad thing.

So I find my best wisdom and the best wisdom of the world – the secular world – often is defied. Challenged. Called into question.8

When you recognize your ignorance, as Marshall goes on to say, at least you know that you do not know. Pity – and be afraid of – the person who thinks he or she knows more than he or she does. They can often be at worst dangerous and at best terribly annoying.

And then there’s the brilliant prayer at the end of the quote: “When we don’t know what to say, keep us quiet.” I have found that most of us – myself definitely included – have a penchant to talk and talk and talk, liking to hear the sound of our own voices even when our voices are meaningless and banal. Instead, let my prayer be this: keep me quiet. Let me be a better listener than a talker. If I could only pick one thing I’d like to learn to be better at before I die, it’s this: the art of listening, really listening, to the people talking to me. How absolutely cool – and unusual – would that be?

So pull a prayer for yourself out of Peter Marshall’s quote and make it your own.

You could do a lot worse. But you couldn’t do any better on this Yom Kippur day, 2016.


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