I want to discuss an interaction I had at the gym. My question is this: is goodness the motivation of my words or do I follow the leading of the Spirit before I speak?
I believe our world would be so quiet if all the words that weren’t inspired by the Spirit were just removed from the air. This is a sobering thought indeed – indicting actually.
I remember a story Martha told about a speaker at a Christian writers conference. He said, “Please, if you’re not called to write, don’t! We can’t find the words God intended to be written because of all the words that He didn’t.”
Only from the Spirit
If there was a silencing of all that was not the Spirit, how precious and meaningful would be every syllable we heard. His messages, both large and small, would have such weight because the din of chatter would cease to dull us. I know that this is impossible this side of heaven, but boy! Does it make me hungry for eternity.
So, how does this relate to an experience I had at the gym? There’s a gentleman I see almost every time I go. We aren’t friends, but we do exchange small talk. He’s a barber and has actually cut my hair a few times, so we have more than a cursory acquaintance. I spoke to him this morning and asked him about his knee. He has arrived at the gym sometimes with a brace, like that of a sports injury. His answers were very brief and a little curt. I then quickly maneuvered out of the conversation and left the locker room.
I wouldn’t have given it another thought if the Lord hadn’t put His finger on it. Why was this man’s response a little brusque? I could tell this totally wasn’t the right question. My question should have been, who was the source initiating that conversation? I can definitely say it wasn’t God. It was my goodness.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t care about his knees right now. I don’t even care why he was curt. My entire interaction with him was based on pleasantries that I felt obligated to give. I’m in the middle of the major job of editing, and my mind and energies are directed towards that. I was only swimming at the gym so I didn’t develop bedsores from sitting for hours while editing (hehehe).
Does this mean I shouldn’t be kind? No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. If my words were only born of the Spirit, how often would I actually talk? Sure, I’m going to be kind to the checkout lady at the grocery store. Yes, I will say hello to this gentleman again, but I probably won’t ask him about his knees. Of course I will give pleasantries to the bank teller, because I live in the south and that’s what we do. But how many words would actually be spoken if I only spoke those that the Spirit initiated? How many of our words are just wood, hay and stubble to be burned? If my words were only based on the leading of the Spirit, would people be like, “Shh, E.F. Hutton!” and listen intently?
Give me the Spirit or Shut UP!
I’m just thinking out loud here, because I want to be a vessel of the Spirit’s life and purpose more than social convention. What if the Spirit had me ask this man about “Sally,” his wife? What if she’s just been diagnosed with cancer and the Spirit could’ve had an opportunity to let life flow? Ultimately, words and intents that come from the Spirit will always bring Christ’s life. Yet everything born out of compulsion and obligation will always be death. Source is everything! Maybe this man’s response towards me was the check of the Spirit saying give me Jesus or shut up! Maybe he was more led of the Spirit than I was. We live in a dying world; we have to be Life. Our goodness will never save. Only God’s goodness produces Christ’s Life.
When Kindness is a Lie
OK, so this’ll bake the noodle. If I’m motivated by goodness and compulsion, and led by all the social conventions, and I ask how someone is doing, am I lying if I really don’t care? Am I being disingenuous by inquiring, or am I just being kind? Does KINDNESS get a pass? If my motivation is kindness, can I do it while stating a lie?
I’m not campaigning for a rude society. I happen to like the fact that people are courteous and kind. I have seen small touches of kindness change everything. I’m just asking about the source of this kindness in me. I’ve seen Martha change an entire deli in our local grocery store. They practically break their necks to get over to say hello. And when Martha isn’t with me, they are inquiring about her. Why? Because she has gone in there with Love and has changed the atmosphere. Not goodness, social convention, but the Love of Christ. Her words have been few but her impact huge!
May this be said of me, “Here is a man who speaks from the Spirit.”
But Micaiah replied, “As surely as the LORD lives, I will say only what the LORD tells me to say.”
1 Kings 22:14 NLT