My kids are 9 and 6 and they like to speak their minds. It's a trait I've been trying to squeeze out of them since one of them first hollered as a toddler at the grocery store checkout lady, "Just so you know, my not wearing underpants!"
Sometimes they're more succinct. My 6-year-old son was filling in the blanks on a Mother's Day card and for the line "My mother helps me …," he wrote, "out." At least that ranked higher than my friend's son, who finished the sentence "Every day, my mother tells me …" with "goodbye."
"Mom?" my son said recently when he caught me tossing half a dozen of his kindergarten worksheets in the trash, "Just so you know, that's very disrespectful of my work."
Their father and I are trying to grind them into submission so they become polite, kind children who can function later as polite, kind adults.
Which is all well and good, except for what I learned by reading about the wife of Pontius Pilate.
I stumbled on this verse the other day and oddly, I didn't think of marriages or government authorities. I thought of my children. And I thought about God.
"Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: 'Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night' " (Matthew 27:19).
Cue the music crescendo. These were the moments leading up to the cruelest, most tortured hours in our Christian story. Jesus was going to be killed, and Pontius Pilate was about to turn him over to the people to start the process.
And his wife told him not to do it.
She called on him at work. She interrupted his business. For a dream. We might understand why, since Romans at the time had a superstition that morning dreams came true. It had her agitated to the point of directly instructing her husband—right in the middle of his busy, busy day.
Have nothing to do with that man. And P.S.? He's innocent.
Just so you know.
As a woman during that time in history, wasn't it likely that Pilate's wife had been put in her place? She probably knew protocol and societal rules and where she stood in the hierarchy. I assume she was instructed as a little girl and then many, many times throughout her life: be quiet.
But she's the one God used to say something to Pilate.
I spend so much time telling my kids to be quiet. Or at least be quieter.
There's good in quiet. One can best hear God's still, small voice in the quiet. There's good in disciplined, contemplative silence.
Except when you've got something to say. Especially when you're the only one around saying it. Like Pilate's wife.
I want my kids to speak when they've heard something from God. I want them to practice listening to him and discerning his voice when they're small because they need him. And as they get bigger, they'll need him even more.
And the world needs him.
Pilate needed him.
Pilate suspected the clamoring crowd was wrong, and then came his wife's words: "Leave that innocent man alone." He was told, but he didn't listen. He didn't stand up to the crowd—a crowd over which he governed.
So her words changed … nothing?
Her words changed how God told the story in his book. Everybody was warned. Nobody listened.
A message for my children if ever there was one: Do not be silenced just because you think nobody is listening.
Some scholars say Pilate's wife's dream was from Satan. Theologian Charles Spurgeon debunked this by writing, "Certain old writers trace her dream to the devil, who thus hoped to prevent the death of our Lord and so prevent our redemption. I do not agree with the notion! … Pilate must be warned so that his sentence may be his own act and deed."
God went to a lot of bother to include this woman's voice among all the hollering from the crowd, among the silence from the disciples, among the cock crowing as Peter denied Jesus for the third time.
I will tell my children, "When you are given something from God, enjoy it. Think on it. And by all means, express it."
Because not every listener is a Pontius Pilate.
In fact, "The harvest is great," said Jesus (Luke 10:2).
I will tell my children, "Please speak."
Do not rob the lost of the work God has put inside you to carry out. Do not rob yourself of the gift of contributing to a good work in God's due season.
Especially on account of Dad and me telling you to zip it too many times. We are trying our best.
"We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).
May this be true of you. Please.
P.S. I also apologize for showing up to your kindergarten graduation in sneakers—I didn't know it was going to be fancy.
Janelle Alberts is a freelance writer, focused on integrating Bible stories into daily life. She and her loving husband enjoy their two wonderful children most of the time.