As I look back through my past prayer journals...I see a definite trend in things that I struggle with. One of those things is my mouth. It seems over and over throughout my life that my mouth has gotten me into trouble. Starting when I was a teenager :) Boy, was I sassy. And on into my 20's, my mouth kind of stayed with me. I don't think I thought I was ever hurting anyone directly with my words, but even the TONE of voice I may have used toward someone, or a bit of sarcasm falling on sensitive ears...they all have negative effects. It carries over into my relationship with my family as we discuss topics that we may not all agree on and I really want to get my point across. It carries over into my marriage...when I let my mouth speak to Matt before my mind/heart has caught up to it. It carries over into my relationship with Bella...when I can all too often get frustrated and use an impatient tone with her when I'm in a hurry to get something done. I could make excuses all day about why I am the way I am. I'm "passionate". I'm "outgoing". I have "strong opinions". But the truth is, Jesus doesn't care about the excuses. His standard for our speech is so much higher than an explanation of "why I did it". I've read that the "mark of a spiritually mature woman" is that she has tamed her tongue. Oh...LORD!! How I long to be spiritually mature. I want all of my words to be only WISE & KIND! I want my words to be GENTLE!
Words are powerful. They have the ability to tear families apart. But they also have the ability to mend broken hearts and relationships. They can completely rip away at someone's self-esteem. But they can also be used to encourage and support. Jesus had MUCH to say about the words that come from our mouths.
Proverbs 17: 27 He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.
James 3:2-12 For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect individual, able to control the entire body as well. And if we put bits into the mouths of horses to get them to obey us, then we guide their entire bodies. Look at ships too: Though they are so large and driven by harsh winds, they are steered by a tiny rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination directs. So too the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it has great pretensions. Think how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze. And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence – and is set on fire by hell. For every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and sea creature is subdued and has been subdued by humankind. But no human being can subdue the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord, and Father, and with it we curse people made in God’s image. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters. A spring does not pour out fresh water and bitter water from the same opening, does it? Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters, or a vine produce figs? Neither can a salt water spring produce fresh water.
Proverbs 13:3 He who guards his mouth preserves his life, But he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.
Proverbs 21:23 Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles.
James 1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.
Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Just a quick glance through these verses is enough to make me fall to my knees! Our words CONTROL our lives, set the tone for our day, and give credibility to our faith. The last sentence of the last passage is so convicting...if my mouth is speaking from the abundance or "overflow" of my heart, what is truly in my heart? Have I let Jesus come completely in and wash away all of the negativity, anger, envy, impatience...?
"From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters. A spring does not pour out fresh water and bitter water from the same opening, does it?" How often have we been speaking harshly/"cursing" to someone in our immediate family and when a stranger or friend comes near, we start speaking "blessing"? When we switch back and forth like that, what does it say about our character? And about our relationship with God?
I know without a doubt that when I have neglected my spiritual life and my time in God's word...my mouth starts to get sassy. I start to speak with negative words and with harsh tones. The inward "words" I allow myself to think are affected as well. When I am in God's word consistently, HIS words fill my heart. HIS words come to mind in a hard situation. HIS words bring LIFE.
I want to start examining my speech with a fine-toothed comb...weeding out anything that is not pleasing to Him. I only want to say words that are wise and kind...and most of all, spoken with a gentle spirit. It's not human nature to be those kind of things all the time...so it's only by the power of the Holy Spirit that I will be able to accomplish it. Sometimes I physically have to "bite my tongue" to stop from saying the first thing that comes to my mouth. It's definitely an exercise in self-control....that's why it's called TAMING the tongue. A rule we try to live by at our house..."don't ever say the first thing that comes to mind. Or the second. The third thing is usually the best." And of course, you could just not say anything at all...and that's ok. It gives your heart time to catch up.
Speak truth today. Speak wisdom today. Speak kindness today. Speak gentleness today. You'll be amazed at the change in your family life/relationships and ALL of the situations you encounter.
Self-discipline does not come naturally. We are born with the desire to do whatever feels the best, and it's difficult to overcome. However, once it is mastered, it makes a huge difference in every area of life.
Self-discipline defined: the act of denying yourself; controlling your impulses.
Ah-ha! No wonder it's so hard. When is the last time you heard a commerical on TV telling you to DENY yourself? It's a dual struggle...against our flesh AND the culture we live in. The only way for me to gain control of my impulses, as the definition implies, is to pray continuously. Here are some of the areas that I struggle with:
- Sleep. I wrote about this yesterday...so no need to go into detail. I have a hard time denying myself of more internet time and my bedtime gets pushed later and later and later. Consequently, I am too tired to get up at 5:30 a.m...which is when I desire to meet with the Lord.
- Exercise. I used to work out daily at 5:30 a.m. 6 days a week. But that was back in year 2000 BB (before Bella). I have the desire now...but no discipline. For the time being I get my "workout" by chasing Bella, lifting her on my legs, climbing the stairs, etc. But it's not enough to maintain a healthy heart. Maybe I will add that to my things to do when I get up at 5:30 a.m. :)
- Money. I have battled money issues throughout my adult life. It started in college...they told me I could have a free t-shirt if I signed up for their credit card. Sweeeeet! Next thing I know, I have $5,000 on that card and it's only the end of my freshman year. Luckily, I snapped out of that, paid it off, and met Matt. We still had to learn a lot of money lessons the hard way when we were newlyweds, but it's under control now. Especially with the Compact in full swing. We have no consumer debt and we only pay with cash, using an envelope budgeting system. However, even though we are following a budget, the struggle is with the DESIRE to buy things...not actually buying them. Wanting more, when I have more than enough. Even while on the Compact, I have choices to make regarding what we do spend. For example, I went grocery shopping today and I could have easily spent $100 if I would have allowed myself to buy everything I "wanted"... bread (instead of making my own), a sandwich for lunch (instead of going home to eat), apples (they are so expensive right now!), crackers for Bella (instead of making our own)...the list could go on and on. Instead, I stuck to my list and got an amazing amount of food for only $55.00. It was exhilierating to deny myself in this case, because it resulted in saved money.
- Food. I have always had a fast metabolism...and didn't really have to watch what I ate. Now that I'm getting OLD...I need to be more mindful of what I put in my mouth. I have a horrible sweet tooth, and if I let myself start down a sugar path...it's hard to come back. With that being said, I have incredible self-discipline when I want to...especially in the area of food. Eating only raw foods for an entire month? No problem. No meat for 2 years? No problem. It's all the other little battles. Having another peanut butter cup doesn't really seem like a spiritual battle...but it's the attitude of that heart that matters. If I can practice self-discipline in the little matters...it will be easier during the bigger trials.
- Maintaining my home. When I discipline myself to clean the apt. throughout the day and put everything away after each use, I am a MUCH happier person. Disciplining myself to create a "place for everything" blesses my family. If I decide that I don't "want" to do the laundry for 2 weeks...there are big problems. Isn't it amazing how God can teach us lessons even through the mundane?
- My mouth. After high school and college, gossiping became a thing of the past for me. However, I still have to be very careful about my use of sarcasm...and my tone of voice in everyday conversation. It is especially important as a Godly wife to never speak badly about my husband to others. Every word out of my mouth is counted in heaven...I long to please Him with every breath. So challenging...
Basically it comes down to denying myself now for a greater reward/benefit in the future. Getting up early might not feel great now, but the long-term spiritual benefits are plenty. Deciding to exercise and eat healthy even when I don't feel like it will bring health to me through the years of my life. Not buying everything I desire will allow us to save for more important things in the future. Having a discplined mouth brings honor in the present and no regrets in the future.
"Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Cor 6:12
I want only to be "mastered" by the Lord...who knows my struggles and my heart. He knows how to best teach me in this area. He displayed the ultimate self-discipline as He willingly went to the cross to die for our sins. My prayer is that I will die to myself daily...for I am not my own.