AH!!!! My little Californian heart is flitting around on the flurry, tasting the first snow of… Fall? Mesmerized by its descent… transfixed on the giggles of kids and their parents alike.
Perhaps many months of snow from now we will be complaining, not giggling, trudging, not skipping. But in this moment… our smiles are big, the beauty of God’s creations is still fresh and new, and we find comfort in hot chocolate and blankets pulled from their summer slumber.
Perhaps this kind of presence to the occasion is also what dad has taught me. To breathe in the moment and celebrate it’s goodness. To quiet the voices of past and future and relish in the now.
Which takes a great deal of self-control. The ability to say “no” to our desires or temptations… and “yes” to what is good for us and for all… even when it is in conflict with what we want.
To hold our tongue when it doesn’t build up or offer a solution.
To turn down the volume of our own attention-seeking inner voice so we can truly listen to the heart of another.
To build a fence, so to speak, around our actions, words, and thoughts. To put a filter on our hearts, minds, and souls. A thermostat to set the degree of our interactions.
Free-for-all living does not equate freedom.
What a lie our culture has fed us… that saying everything you think, doing everything you want, and treating others the way one believes they “deserve” somehow equals abundant and complete living. True freedom from our self-made pedestal.
The kind of freedom that leads to a life of putting out fires, burned bridges, and deep friendship missed to self-righteousness.
Some of us even call that “love.” Saying what we think, if it’s true, regardless of timing, how it helps or doesn’t help, whether it’s condemning or instructive… is love.
My dad has taught me differently.
That true love… shows restraint. It speaks truth in love… in true love… purely based on concern for the wellbeing of the other and not on the pride it gives us to be “right” or to have a special knowledge.
It is self-controlled.
It doesn’t just speak because it can… but because the world will be better for it.
It doesn’t just do because it is able… but because it truly is right and good… and doesn’t rob another of the opportunity.
It doesn’t hand out its own self-made justice… but longs solely for the eternal joys of each person and lives by such longing.
I have learned this the hard way. I did not take the advice of my dad on this one… not at first.
But seeing the pain I’ve caused others in my rash decisions to speak and do… have converted me to a life of careful restraint and thoughtful action.
I’ve used words in the name of “love” as daggers in the already wounded.
I’ve filled every “need” and thus prevented other gifted and talented from being used.
I’ve responded in full emotion… trusting the fickle feeling rather than ancient words of wisdom…
How freeing it is to know that you are not owned by your desires!
To live so carelessly as to say, think, and do on every impulse… reflects a life unbridled. A person on a crash-collision course with no driver in the car. A boat tossed to-and-fro on an angry sea. That does not sounds like freedom to me… but instead of devastation, calamity, and a great need for other things to be in control of.
Like spouses. Children. Employees. Animals.
Instead, when I choose to live with intentional restraint… I am truly free. Free to love others as they deserve. Free to trust. To give. To be.
Because I know that my choices are my own… and I am not a slave to my feelings.
- A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.
- A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
- Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. . . If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile. Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:19-20, 26-27