Sit on It. (Living by the Word)

By Arnold, Talitha | The Christian Century, October 23, 2002 | Go to article overview

Sit on It. (Living by the Word)


Arnold, Talitha, The Christian Century


Sunday, November 17

Judges 4:1-7

DEBORAH: JUDGE. Prophetess. Wife or "spirited woman," depending on how you translate the Hebrew. Powerful woman who advised generals and led troops into battle. Creative woman who composed songs of victory. Wise woman who "sat."

As a seminarian, I was impressed by Deborah's many roles and responsibilities. She was a leader of men when women could only be wives, sisters and mothers. A judge, when a woman's testimony never counted as much as a man s. On the front S line, when a woman's place was in the home.

I am still impressed by all that. But 20-plus years later, as a minister with a considerable number of roles myself, I'm equally impressed with the phrase: "She used to sit." I think it's the most radical thing she did, especially as a leader. We leaders organize, plan, execute, strategize. We lead. We don't sit.

My mother used to sit. As a widowed parent to four children, a science teacher and a volunteer for church and 4-H, she had little time to sit. Yet every morning before we got up, she'd sit in her chair in the living room, a cup of coffee in one hand, the Bible in the other. If the afternoon permitted it, she did the same, although a cup of tea or a can of beer (if the day had been really long), and with the newspaper instead of the Bible. We kids knew the time was sacred and did not disturb her with "What's for dinner?"

I think we knew that sitting made all the other activity possible. It didn't solve all our problems as a family, of which there were many, or guarantee order out of chaos. But sitting offered my mother a chance to catch her breath, to remember life was more than the task at hand, and to tap into some sense of peace in the midst of the maelstrom.

I suspect that was true for Deborah as well. Leaders need wisdom and courage and can't find those qualities if they're always out front leading the charge. Sometimes they need just to sit.

Sitting is usually the last thing I want to do, or that I think others expect me to do. As the minister of a growing church, I've spent the last 15 years as a strategic planner, organizer, cajoler, counselor, preacher, even construction supervisor. Those roles grow as the church grows.

Although I value those roles and take my responsibilities seriously, I increasingly yearn to sit in silence. There are even times when I wonder if I have any word to offer, which is almost blasphemous for a United Church of Christ minister. Sitting in silence is for Quakers, not UCC pastors. But then I remember Deborah under her palm tree and my mother with her morning coffee. …

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