There was something odd about the camping trailer ahead of us. Something black was dancing underneath it like fingers across piano keys, trilling back and forth. As the distance between our vehicles closed, I realized it wasn’t underneath but on the back bumper. It was a row of fine black fibres closely strung together to prevent stones from flying back and smashing into the windshields of other drivers. A kind consideration for other travellers along the journey. Thoughtful.
It made me wonder if I was as thoughtful towards others along the journey of life? Because I also spat out stones. Verbally, every time I opened my mouth. Without a filament screen, where would those stones fly, causing chips and cracks, leading to hurt, frustration and strained or broken relationships?
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.James 1:26 NIV
But I do have a filter, the Holy Spirit. When I accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour, it came with a bonus, a promise – the Holy Spirit living in me, to guide and counsel me through the rest of my days. However, it is not enough to know that or even believe it.
When you purchase a new computer, it comes with lots of programs and guidelines on how to use it, but if you do not read them and apply them, you will end up with a useless hunk of metal, chips and wires because the parts can’t hear each other. Without accessing and downloading the Holy Spirit file, we will not be able to grow in our faith.
We need to take action. How, you may ask? By asking, listening and responding.
Like our Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit will not force Himself on us. He whispers and nudges us lovingly, but if we ignore Him, he becomes increasingly quieter until we wonder if He is still there. If we cry out to the Lord for help, the Holy Spirit will respond, but then we ignore Him again, and the cycle continues.
I got frustrated with this roller coaster way of living and decided I wanted to have His guidance on a more constant basis. So, I asked the Lord to let me hear the Holy Spirit more clearly, for Him to guard my mouth and help me follow Christ every day.
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!Matthew 11:13 NIV
But asking is not enough without listening.
Listening, really listening, is more complicated than it sounds! It is a challenge to quiet not only the space around me but the space inside my head. I realized I needed to practice being still and listening for His guidance. For me, it helped by concentrating on my breathing, listening to the more subtle noises around me, or repeating a short verse of the Bible to help me focus on the Lord. I am learning to be intentional in taking some time, even if only a few minutes, to wait for a response. Throughout the day, I try to pause before speaking and listen for guidance in choosing life-giving and encouraging words, instead of self-satisfying ones
..let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance..Proverbs 1:5
Now asking and listening are fine and good, but if I don’t learn to respond or trust God enough then, it’s pointless.
I pray to be more aware of the Holy Spirit’s nudges and follow them, not brushing them off as just idle thoughts. The more I step out in faith to follow, the better I will be able to discern what the Lord’s will is, the better I will know the sound of His voice, and then my confidence in stepping out will increase. But I have to respond first. The Levite priests, who carried the Ark of the Covenant across the Jordan River in Joshua chapters 3 and 4, had to step into the swollen, swirling current, in faith, before the water piled up in a heap. It was when they obeyed that the Lord acted. And He not only stopped the water, but the passage says, they stood on dry ground.
Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:5
The Holy Spirit can and will do amazing things for those who believe and trust Him. If I ask Him to guard my mouth, to filter my words, He will. But I have to listen before I speak, and then I have to respond the way He tells me to.
In some situations, sweet, encouraging, elevating words bubble out, and other times the taste of blood is in my mouth, and then there are the moments when my selfish, sin-filled self spews venom. Sigh. I wish I could say it wasn’t so, but the latter happens more frequently than it should. And then, internally, I hang my head in defeat.
The Lord is gracious and quick to forgive, though. The Holy Spirit speaks gently to my spirit to keep listening and trying. I will never be perfect on this side of heaven as much as I desire it.
So how is your filter working? Do you have one tacked over your mouth?
A wise woman I know gave me a helpful image once. She said she envisions herself pulling a zipper across her lips. Maybe that can work for you too? Zippers, filaments, locks, whatever picture helps use it, but remember to ask, listen and then respond with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He is waiting to do amazing things with and for you.