Yep. It’s been pretty quiet round here since I started my Lent discipline of not complaining. Following that principle of ‘if you have nothing positive to say, say nothing’, I have been a whole lot quieter of late. I have also noticed how much I usually find to complain about. I won’t pretend I haven’t slipped up – sometimes very badly – but on the whole, I think I am managing to keep a fairly firm grip on my tongue.
And there’s the rub. What comes out is purely an expression of what’s inside. And for this attempt to stop complaining to be sustainable, it’s the inside that needs to change. I realise I need Jesus to help me with this. As with every significant behavioural change I have successfully made in my life, I can’t really take credit for anything other than a sometimes grudging willingness to become a different version of myself. To be upgraded, so to speak. It’s God who does the work. And He does it at my pace, not His. He doesn’t force things on me but as I mature, I find Him showing me areas that need work. My old ways, my childish ways, are no longer sufficient. Just as growing children find each birthday brings not only presents and celebrations but new responsibilities and expectations. And just as parents try to show how to meet these, God also steps in to help me with the changes I need to make.
Like when I gave up smoking. Not that I was a heavy smoker. I rarely smoked more than 2 cigarettes a day in the last year of my habit. But I needed them both. Daily. I had eventually to admit to myself that each failure to crack the habit was a sign that I needed help. But I was a bit embarrassed to admit that I really had a problem. I had also made a pact with myself not to smoke beyond the age of 30. But the night before that birthday, I had to face the fact that I wouldn’t be able to simply stop the next day. Not without either divine assistance or hypnosis. (I will always choose divine assistance over hypnosis. Just so you know). So I essentially handed my cigarettes over to Jesus and asked him to look after them for me. And guess what. He hasn’t given them back. The physical addiction was relatively quickly dealt with, though the psychological one took a while longer. And yes of course I had my moments of failure. But Jesus helped me get back on track.
So fast forward now, to no complaining. To the new, quieter me.
At this point in writing this post, my computer switched itself off without warning to install some updates. The whole screen went blank. I couldn’t believe it. Then I thought, this is like a metaphor for what God’s Holy Spirit is doing in me a bit at the moment. I am shut down. In my attempts to do or be better I am silenced by the stuff inside me that needs sorting out. The one who put me together is giving me an update. There is, apparently, teaching in every moment. When my laptop eventually switched itself on again, I was relieved to see it had autosaved the first part of this post, which I had already mentally waved goodbye.
Like the computer, I’m sure I will be switched on again with some new language to replace the old, just as my laptop is greatly enhanced in ways I cannot yet see but know I will notice in due course. I’m looking forward to it.