Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mouthful of something

A man's stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth;
from the produce of his lips he shall be filled.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
~ Proverbs 18: 20-21

I fill up daily on what goes into my mouth - what I feed myself - for better or for worse. But counter-intuitively, this Proverb suggest that I also fill up on what comes out of my mouth, through the words rolling off my tongue, forcing me to stop and think: on what, then, am I filling myself? In other words, what's my word diet?

When it comes to food, I am pretty intentional about what goes into my body. I have my vices, like everyone else, but overall I love putting healthy foods into my system. It feels good and satisfying to feed my body with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils, and my other vegetarian sources of protein. I don't count my calories, but I try to limit the empty calories, mostly because I know they don't satisfy much more than a fleeting craving.

If only I were so intentional with my word diet. While I try to think before I speak, what comes out of my mouth is not always full of vitamins or substance, so to speak. It doesn't necessarily build up my spirit, let alone someone else's. Were I to look at my daily word diet (as in what comes out of my mouth), I think I'd find quite a few empty calories. Too many unnecessary fillers and not enough encouragers. I wonder how many cases of "food poisoning" my words have flared up in myself and others. It's a sobering thought. On the flip side, how many words have brought health and healing to myself and others? Perhaps it's time for a nutrition make-over for my mouth.

But how do I change my word diet? Sometimes, oddly, I think I can change it by talking all the bad stuff out of my system. Not terribly productive or brilliant. I think a change of word diet begins, not with words, but with silence. With fasting - from words. I can be incredibly analytical and reflective, but not necessarily contemplative. I can fill the air with my wordy prayers and verbal processing rants to God, but what if I simply sat in silence and filled myself up with the peace that comes from being in His presence? What if I actually sat long enough to hear something that fed my spirit? It sounds so simple, yet the thought produces such a squirmy response in me. You mean... sit still and be quiet? That's a tall order. I just don't know if there's a way around it. For the words coming from my mouth to truly build myself and others up with truth and grace and love, I need to practice this discipline.

And here I'm grateful, once more, for being set upon this 40-day journey of Lent. As I think about how Jesus prepared to give of Himself through the 40 days He spent alone in the wilderness, fasting and facing temptations, I'm reminded of the words He spoke to the devil when He was tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God' "(Matthew 4:4). When He emerged from His time in the wilderness, I'm sure His body was very hungry. And yet He was filled up with the Spirit. He had feasted on the word of God, which dwelled in Him.

During this Lenten season, Jesus, teach me how to feast on the words that come from the mouth of God, to sit still in silence, and to be filled up on good things. Help me to fast from such excessive speaking, to let my words be fewer and more life-giving to myself and others.

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