Monday, September 29, 2008

Wow. The Lord has a way of smacking me on the head


I was reading in my devotions this morning from Spiritual Classics. There is an essay by Catherine Marshall entitled A fasting from criticalness that is well worth reading. I have reprinted it here for you:

A Fasting on Criticalness

by Catherine Marshall

The Lord continues to deal with me about my critical spirit, convicting me that I have been wrong to judge any person or situation: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2; NIV)

One morning last week He gave me an assignment: for one day I was to go on a “fast” from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything.

Into my mind crowded all the usual objections. “But then what happens to value judgments? You Yourself, Lord, spoke of ‘righteous judgment.’ How could society operate without standards and limits?”

All such resistance was brushed aside. “Just obey Me without questioning: an absolute fast on any critical statements for this day.”

As I pondered this assignment, I realized there was an even humorous side to this kind of fast. What did the Lord want to show me?

The Experiment

For the first half of the day, I simply felt a void, almost as if I had been wiped out as a person. This was especially true at lunch with my husband, Len, my mother, son Jeff, and my secretary Jeanne Sevigny, present. Several topics came up (school prayer, abortion, the ERA amendment) about which I had definite opinions. I listened to the others and kept silent. Barbed comments on the tip of my tongue about certain world leaders were suppressed. In our talkative family no one seemed to notice.

Bemused, I noticed that my comments were not missed. The federal government, the judicial system, and the institutional church could apparently get along fine without my penetrating observations. But still I didn’t see what this fast on criticism was accomplishing—until mid-afternoon.

For several years I had been praying for one talented young man whose life had gotten sidetracked. Perhaps my prayers for him had been too negative. That afternoon, a specific, positive vision for this life was dropped into my mind with God’s unmistakable hallmark on it—joy.

Ideas began to flow in a way I had not experienced in years. Now it was apparent what the Lord wanted me to see. My critical nature had not corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with. What it had done was to stifle my own creativity—in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing—ideas that He wanted to give me.

Last Sunday night in a Bible study group, I told of my Day’s Fast experiment. The response was startling. Many admitted that criticalness was the chief problem in their offices, or in their marriages, or with their teenage children.

The Result

My own character flaw here is not going to be corrected overnight. But in thinking this problem through the past few days, I find the most solid Scriptural basis possible for dealing with it. (The Greek word translated “judge” in King James, becomes “criticize” in Moffat.) All through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets Himself squarely against our seeing other people and life situations through this negative lens. What He is showing me so far can be summed up as follows:

  1. A critical spirit focuses us on ourselves and makes us unhappy. We lose perspective and humor.
  2. A critical spirit blocks the positive creative thoughts God longs to give us.
  3. A critical spirit can prevent good relationships between individuals and often produces retaliatory criticalness.
  4. Criticalness blocks the work of the Spirit of God: love, good will, mercy.
  5. Whenever we see something genuinely wrong in another person’s behavior, rather than criticize him or her directly, or – far worse – gripe about him behind his back, we should ask the Spirit of God to do the correction needed.

Convicted of the true destructiveness of a critical mind-set, on my knees I am repeating this prayer: “Lord, I repent of this sin of judgment. I am deeply sorry for having committed so gross an offense against You and against myself so continually. I claim Your promise of forgiveness and seek a new beginning.”

Does that ring your bell? It certainly did mine. I'm a basically optimistic person, but I do have a critical spirit at times. I lose the ability to see the good in people and situations and only see that which I consider to be wrong. And it takes me into a dark place where the Spirit of God is hard to find.

Can I ask each of you to fast one day each week from criticalness? Can we agree to each take one day where we do not disparage anyone, anything or any situation? I think if we did that, we can expect that God will rearrange many of our thoughts and allow us to go places with Him that we have not been in some time. I know that I need to do this, and I pray that you will join me.

The following scripture follows this thought quite nicely:

Isaiah 58:3-9

3 'Why have we fasted,' they say,
'and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?'
"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

1 comment:

David said...

Thanks for this post, Roy. I am struggling with how to constructively criticize someone close to me to allow our relationship to grow instead of letting God do His work. Nothing seems to change so I feel compelled to 'act' rather than pray. More prayer is obviously needed so I may try this fast to help bring the Spirit's power in for backup and help me curb my own control issues.