Learning How to Keep My Mouth Shut

I love a good discussion.

I am always up for a deep talk about some kind of challenging topic, and I’m ready to jump in at any time to share my opinion or add my thoughts to the conversation.

Usually too ready.

Lately I feel as though God is calling me to be quiet.

To learn how to listen, instead of always waiting for my turn to say something.

This is hard for me. I like talking. I will gladly do my part to ease the awkward silences.

And I guess I just like being heard.

One evening when Ben and I were talking about this, he shared his strategy with me. He said that whenever he’s in a group of people where everyone is talking or waiting for their turn to be able to say something, he sits back and thinks to himself:

I’m okay with my opinion being the one that’s not heard.

This has stuck with me. If you’re ever in a group discussion with me, chances are you’ll know what’s going through my head: “It’s okay. I don’t need to be heard. My opinion is still worth something, even if no one knows it but me.”

I think it’s human nature to like being heard. We feel valued when others hear what we have to say, and agree with us, or just understand us.

But what God has been reminding me of lately is that I am already heard. He always hears me.

I’ve been stuck on Psalm 116 for a month now. I keep going over and over these words of truth:

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

When I came across those verses a month ago, they hit so deep and rang so true, I had to stop and take note, because it was clear to me that I had a deep, aching longing to be heard.

The reminder that God is listening is helping me to learn how to stay quiet.

He values my thoughts and opinions.

He gives me everything I need to sit back, find my true value in Him, listen hard to others, and be the reminder to them that they are loved, as I am loved, because we are heard.

When I Say “I Don’t”

I found an amazing article this week which got stuck in my mind, and I hope it stays there for awhile: The Amazing Power of ‘I Don’t’ vs. ‘I Can’t’.


Isn’t it crazy when a couple of words can make all the difference?

I mentioned on Wednesday that it’s been over five years since I changed my diet for health reasons, and during that time, I have always said things like, “I can’t eat sugar,” or “I can’t eat chips”.

EVERYTHING changes when I say “I don’t eat sugar.”

Suddenly, it sounds like this strong choice I’m making for my own health, rather than some terrible burden I must bear because someone out there is not allowing me the pleasure of eating whatever I want.

Try it.

As in right now.

Pick one thing you “can’t” do, and say it out loud. Now change it to “I don’t”.

Amazing. I’ve already been making some awesome, healthy choices simply because I feel like I have the power to do so. I choose to do this for myself. Nobody’s forcing me. I’m not being held back. I can, but I choose not to.

The Point of Temptation

I love chips.

I love to inhale chips.

It is completely dangerous for me to be around a bag of chips, because I will eat it all, by myself.

The big problem is that chips make my tongue very, very happy, and my digestive system very, very unhappy. I’m on a fairly strict diet for health reasons, and if I stick to it, I feel great.

If I inhale a bag of chips, I do not feel great. It takes me a day or two to recover.

But, oh, when those chips are being shoved rapidly into my mouth, I don’t really care how many days it will take to get back to normal. It seems worth it all.

Until the second after I’m done inhaling the bag of chips. Then, I am usually overcome with guilt and remorse, and it does NOT seem worth it AT ALL.

Obviously, I have issues with chips.

I was thinking about all of this awhile ago when I was leading a session on resisting temptation. Eating chips is not usually considered sinful behaviour, but for somebody like me, sometimes I wonder….

Those moments of pure indulgence do not do good things for self-control, and they also don’t do good things for my family. My mood is affected by what I eat, and if I feel sick and crabby for a day after an encounter with some chips, it really doesn’t seem fair for everyone involved.

But what happens so often is that we focus on the actual act of wrong-doing, and feel bad about what we’ve done, but we don’t see the big picture. We don’t recognize all the little steps that led us up to the big moment when we caved.

For example….My moment of weakness did not happen when that bag of chips happened to be sitting there in front of me in all its salty, greasy glory. It happened already when I was at the store, and I was pushing my cart past the chip aisle. When I paused there, and started to imagine how delicious a bag of chips would taste…THAT was my moment of temptation.

And resisting in that moment would be a lot easier than later on. At my first point of temptation, all I would have to do is keep my cart rolling straight, instead of turning down the chip aisle.

(Totally outdated picture, but it’s the only grocery shopping picture I have! And I find it funny that although it’s taken two years ago, there’s a bag of ripple chips in the cart!)

Later on, I would have to resist that bag of chips in many other more difficult situations – like when I see it sitting in my pantry repeatedly, day after day, until I break down and eat it. Or I would have to resist it at a party, when the bag is sitting open on the counter. Or I’d have to stop myself in the moment when my hand was in the bag, reaching for another handful, after already consuming half the chips.

But it’s soooo hard to stop then! I want to keep eating until they are gone! (I realize that at this point, you might be thinking I’m completely crazy, and needing some serious help. I would just like to point out that people are either moderators or abstainers – they can do things in moderation, like eat only one cookie, or they are the “all or nothing” type, meaning they would eat the entire bag of Oreos. I would eat the entire bag of cookies.)

I once read a fantastic article about bad habits and how to break them. When you have a problem area in your life, it helps to identify not just what the area of temptation is, but also what leads up to it.

When specifically do I crave chips? Can I stay away from the chip aisle completely when I shop? Can I make sure not to shop when I’m hungry?

When am I most likely to be led into temptation, and how can I avoid those situations in my life?

Today I had to explain to Anika what it meant to “flee from the devil”. After clearing up the difference between “flee” and “flea”, I explained that when we feel tempted, God tells us to RUN. As fast as we can, in the opposite direction.

I must flee from Ripple Chips, as fast as my legs will take me.

I also need to recognize the little choices I make, and be aware of what direction they are taking me.

Okay, confession time! What’s your weakness? And what leads you to the point of giving in?

For Times When I Want To Be in Control…

I like to be in control of my life.

That’s kind of a problem, seeing as there are so many aspects to life that I am not in control of.

I’ve spent years dealing with the struggle between the desire to be in control, and the conviction to surrender everything in my life over to God.

From what I’ve seen, heard, and read, I know that I am not alone in this struggle. It’s one of the big struggles of the Christian life – surrendering to God, giving up control. I spend a lot of time feeling frustrated – I want to surrender control to God, but I have all this energy and emotion that won’t co-operate. What do I do with it all?

But I had an epiphany last night.

I’ve been reading The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin (which you will hear much more about yet, believe me, because that book is amazing), and she ended the book by observing that one of the biggest ways that her Happiness Project made her happy was by giving her control of her life.

But here’s the thing: She didn’t get control over what happened in her life so much as she got control over her reaction.

I’ve been seeing my desire to control as such a weakness – a bad desire that I must get rid of, in order to surrender my life to God.

But the Bible makes it clear that God wants us to be in control of certain things – of our reaction to things, of our thoughts, of the choices that we make.

Self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit. We are told to take every thought captive. We are told to “consider it pure joy” when we face hardships.

Control over the right things in our lives is actually a good thing.

It only becomes wrong when I try to control things that are not mine to control.

What if I have a desire to control because God gave it to me? What if each of us has a God-given longing for self-control, for the ability to choose grace under pressure, for the ability to rise to the occasion, and control the things that He desires for us to control?

What if every time I’m frustrated about my lack of control in a situation, I switch my focus to control my reaction, instead of the situation?

No, I won’t end up getting my own way, but at least I would have a new direction to point my energy and emotions. I would still be surrendering to God what He wants me to surrender, and would get to work on controlling the stuff that He’s actually given me responsibility for.

And now all of the calm people of the world, like Ben and my dad, are probably reading that and wondering why on earth it took me nearly 33 years to figure it out.

I can’t control when I get an epiphany. Since I am not one of the calm people of the world, some of these things take a little longer…