I've been quiet around here lately.
Actually, I've been quiet most everywhere lately. On Saturday, I posted my first Instagram photo in a month, with this caption: "A month away from social media has been good for my soul. (Was that a sabbatical or just hiding from current events?)"
I'd like to say that it was a sabbatical, but that makes me sound much more intentional and wise than I really am.
To be honest, it was just my way of practicing the spiritual discipline I need the most: the discipline of keeping my mouth shut.
Of course, there's the discipline of silence, one of the classical spiritual disciplines defined as "closing off our souls from 'sounds,' whether noise, music, or words, so that we may better still the inner chatter and clatter of our noisy hearts and be increasingly attentive to God" (Renovaré Life with God Bible, p. 530).
One of the great benefits of practicing silence is that we are better able to hear the voice of God. My friend Richard Foster explains: "The quality of God's voice is one of drawing and encouraging. The spirit in God's voice is all grace and mercy. And the content of what is being said is always consistent with what God has said before--we have a huge biblical witness upon which to test our leadings" (Sanctuary of the Soul, p. 11).
I wish I could tell you that this is what I've been up to for the past month, but that would be a lie. Instead, I've been practicing a discipline that is often the very hardest thing for me to do: biting my tongue.
Over and over God convicts me with the verse upon which the name of this blog is based:
"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29).
That's from my lifelong favorite King James Version, but I need to hear it in other words, too. Like the NIV:
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
Or even more pointed, from The Message:
"Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift."
And the truth is that, as I've watched events unfold over the past month, I really didn't have anything to say that would be helpful.
That's humbling. I've wrestled with it, thinking that perhaps I had a responsibility to say something. Maybe I should have spoken words of grace. Maybe I should have added my voice just to remind people of God's love and goodness.
But the harder--and I think, the more needful--thing was to keep my mouth shut.
Sometimes people get confused about spiritual disciplines, thinking that they are lovely practices that uplift and encourage. And that's partially true. But that's not the whole picture.
Spiritual disciplines are not pampering for the soul. They're more like medicine for the soul: I take what I need. I don't practice what is most enjoyable; I practice what is most necessary for shaping my character into Christlikeness.
What does a Christlike character look like? It's one that overflows with the fruit of the Spirit--the same Spirit that empowered Jesus to live as He did now lives in me. So a Christlike character will show forth love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness (see Galatians 5:22).
I don't keep my mouth shut because I am holy. I keep my mouth shut because I want to become holy.
I want to be the kind of person who will speak only when she has something life-giving to say.
I have a long way to go. But I am confident that God's grace abounds. He can take my little acts of faith and do what I cannot do: He can change me from the inside out. With God nothing is impossible, not even the taming of my tongue.
What about you? What disciplines do you need to practice in order to grow in grace?