The first time I read this verse, my jaw dropped. I had just finished going through an entire week without speaking (save for a handful of “slips.”). The experience was enormously beneficial. I discovered that the absence of speech was making room for all kinds of contemplative inner speech. I found myself bursting with humility, gratitude and serenity. It was as if my verbal activity had been cluttering my mind and heart without my awareness. Then, the morning I resumed speaking, I read the above verse and started weeping as I realized what a tremendous faculty I possessed (speech). At the same time, it dawned on me that by overusing it, I had turned it into something common, even coarse.
If only I had more discipline! I would regularly deprive myself of speech, food and many other things. I know the benefits to be derived, but my anticipation of the pain in the sacrifice usually deters me. I have tried praying for God to help me make these sacrifices, but I think that is pointless. Fasting, to use a financial metaphor, is like going without things I enjoy in order to save money, then investing in something bigger down the line. My prayer was an attempt to invent a high-speed, industrial Christianity. I would fast for a meal or two and ask God: “Lord, please, I ask nothing from this but the ability to go on longer fasts.” I thought: maybe God will grant my prayer and I can roll each fast over into greater and greater fasts. Soon, I’ll be fasting for weeks and be able to write my own ticket, so to speak. Just think! By the time I get up to 40-day fasts, I’ll be able to pray for miracles and watch them happen! I’ll be able to simply wave away all my pesky lusts and get all my friends and family saved and who knows what else! But that didn’t work out any more than my idea, as a new Christian, of going through one or two brutal seasons in the wilderness and then enjoying a life of tranquility forever after. Pain and suffering are constants, especially for servants of Christ.
Now, in the thick of a hard season, I find that not only is my tongue not currently the pen of a skillful writer, my pen is not any part of a skillful anything just lately. I can write when I have to ― thank God for that ― because now I have a job as a freelance writer and have deadlines. I can just imagine what kind of e-mail I’d get back from my editor if, instead of a completed assignment, I sent her an e-mail saying: “I’m sorry, but I’ve got writer’s block.” Fortunately, my employer is a Christian publisher, and from all appearances, I got this job directly from God’s hand after praying specifically for it and even promising God to sacrifice something dear to my heart in exchange. It may not be scriptural to make bargains with God, but this time I did, and God said, “You got it!” So this whole arrangement is God-approved, which has emboldened me, when I’m feeling dry, to approach him and ask for some divine help in getting the syrup to pour. There have been some hard assignments, but I’ve only had to get one extension and haven’t turned in a single story I thought was lousy. God has been helping me write. But not here. Alas, I have been dry as the Mohave when it comes to the Muse. Probably mainly because there are no deadlines, only a vague sense that my posts are getting further and further apart.
Perhaps God is separating me from everything Doug. I don’t know. All I can do is learn to say, “Praise God” for everything that doesn’t kill me and roll with the punches.
Maybe that’s the idea.