Boy, that title sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Like the title to a P.D. James murder mystery or something. It’s easy to imagine that title being about Satan, or about Terrorism, or about Greed, or any number of shadowy, forked-tongue devils that creep in the corners of our lives.
Today, I had an encounter with a Restless Evil, and it happened right here in Nashville. On Music Row, no less. Was it a record label executive, you ask? (That was a cheap shot.) Nope. Was it Lust? Was I tempted by the siren call of one of the many strip clubs and adult bookstores that litter the downtown area? Not today.
Here’s what happened:
I had a radio interview. It was for a show called “The Word in Worship” or something like that. I’m not familiar with it, but it seems like a quality show. The interviewer asked some really good questions, and they seem to know what they’re doing.
I have a confession to make. Every time I do a radio or television interview I’m scared stiff.
If the folks at home could look into the landscape of my brain in the minutes before an interview starts they’d see an epic battle being waged–one part of me is boastful about the fact that anyone cares what I think, the other ashamed of myself for presuming to answer questions as if I know what I’m talking about; meanwhile another part of my psyche is cowering beneath the table sucking his thumb for fear of being found out for the charlatan that he is, that I must be. I start to organize the opinions I’ve bandied in the car with the Captains Courageous, choosing some for potential answer-fodder and discarding others.
Sometimes I remember to pray, and when I do it’s the sanest part of me asking God to shut up the parts that are displeasing to him; sometimes I pray, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable unto you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Sometimes I mean it.
When the pendulum swings from my arrogance to my shame I then start to belittle myself and curse the way that God made me–why can’t I be well-spoken and smart as a fox? Why can’t I call to mind quotes from books I’ve read, or wow the audience with a too-perfect analogy? Why oh why am I me? If I were walking down some cobbled street and saw myself I’d be tempted to spit. Just who do I think I am? I have no business answering any question about anything, let alone questions about God and worship on a syndicated radio show. I have nothing to offer. God couldn’t possibly speak through a fool like me.
The pendulum swings again and I’m congratulating myself for this or that accomplishment as if I had anything to do with it.
Like I said, a battle rages. All that in the time it takes to shake the interviewer’s hand and introduce myself.
He told me that we’d be talking about the current worship movement and at first I got excited. This is something I have Opinions about. Then I remembered Jason Gray’s post about Sara Groves’s new album, and I wanted to quote the verse from Isaiah that he referenced. I reasoned that if I fumbled too much with figuring out what I wanted to say I could always resort to reading some Scripture. This would be a fine example of the cart being placed firmly before the horse. But I couldn’t find the verse Jason referred to, and his cell phone was off. I was on my own.
So the guy asked me a lot of questions. I gave him a lot of answers. I’m certain that about half of what I told him was off-the-cuff, ad libbed, specious and lame. I opined about the state of Worship Music. I stated that it’s a fad, and that I’ll be glad when it runs its course so that people will remember that it’s okay to listen to a song that’s just a song again. But then I realized that that’s a cocky declaration at best. Just because I don’t like a lot of what we call Worship Music doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable, doesn’t meant that throngs of people aren’t blessed by it. So I backpedaled, trying to lessen the blow I had laid on my own jaw.
What was that Bible verse again? Oh, that’s right, I don’t know it.
I had my shot at answering a question about the Christian music biz, and once again, I blew it. I could’ve answered graciously, with humor, without guile, could’ve said something instructive or wise, but I couldn’t manage it. I told him something that was so meaningless that right now I have no recollection of what I said. When I tried to dig myself out of the first answer, I hemmed and hawed and said basically–nothing.
The interview ended about five minutes before I realized that the Restless Evil had gotten the better of me again.
James 3 says, “The tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
I know, I know. I’m being too hard on myself. The interview will be spliced and diced and made into something they can hopefully use, and when it’s all said and done it may be that the opinions I shoveled out weren’t so far off the mark. But I know I was walking a tightrope. It is a precarious business peddling words, and the more you sell them the greater your chance of exposing yourself as a con-artist.
As soon as the elevator doors closed and I descended to the parking garage, my spirit descended into a cloud of repentance. If I didn’t have a good answer, I should have said so. If my words came from a place of arrogance, I should have never said them. Lord, let me be the kind of man who is brave enough to be silent when he ought. When you don’t know what you’re talking about, to speak out can be the easiest thing of all; it is shutting up that takes work.
Andrew Peterson is a singer-songwriter and author. Andrew has released more than ten records over the past twenty years, earning him a reputation for songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. As an author, Andrew’s books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga, released in collectible hardcover editions through Random House in 2020, and his creative memoir, Adorning the Dark, released in 2019 through B&H Publishing.