The link between discipline and spiritual growth is something I think most young Christians are aware of in our eager, if rather vague, desire to grow in holiness and maturity. We think of prayer and Bible study and Scripture memory and the discipline inevitably associated with them, and nod our heads determinedly. It's like getting into shape. It's not for nothing that the Bible repeats the metaphor of athleticism in spiritual growth, or that the words 'endure' and 'persevere' are used so many times to encourage us in our spiritual walk.
I think one of the most basic challenges in this area is the struggle to do daily devotions.
During my days on a student's schedule it was such a great temptation to tell myself that I simply didn't have the time. After all, I had pretty good reasons to go with that, especially with morning classes and rush hour and trying to finish last minute readings before class (read: severe motion sickness.) But eventually--since there was no near end in sight--I realized gradually that things were not going to get easier. I finally made an effort to put a stop to this, knowing the effect it was having on my spiritual life. I managed to work in transit time for prayer time, and to shut my mind to my to-do list when it came to doing devotions in the morning, first thing of all, before even checking my phone (a la John Piper) or putting in a load of laundry or getting dressed or eating breakfast or stretches. Because once you try to sneak in 'just one,' it all goes to pieces. And the next thing you know, you're waist-deep in the daily cycle of rushing to clear your list, and that precious window of time for devotions has gone, other things forcibly beckon...
Once it become a habit, it was so much easier. Devotions started to become the one calm spot in the day, prayer time actually refreshing. I got better and better at being able to mentally tune out the clamour of things that needed to be done, and focus thoroughly on my devotions.
I don't say all this as a textbook example, however. For perspective, I'm writing this months after I've wrapped up my student days, and I'm not so tightly wrapped to the dictates of my schedule.
So things should be easier, shouldn't they? No more challenges, right?
Newsflash: they aren't. I've lapsed sadly. Instead of it being easier, as I would have assumed it to be, it's harder. Without that challenge of time, it no longer seems to matter so much whether you do it first thing--or second thing--or not at all. No sense of urgency. I'll start tomorrow--next Monday--and soon everything I had worked hard to make a habit of was gone.
This drove home to me the fact that I can't use my schedule as an excuse. Discipline, when it comes to what truly matters, is something we need both on busy days AND on down days.
Busy schedules are such a real challenge today. And yet they aren't necessarily the evil we make them out to be. Take a look at what changes (small ones, maybe, but changes nevertheless) that you can make in your life without having to wait for your life to change first. Sometimes, perhaps, we need to rethink what we assume is conducive, to realize that conducive--the way we define it--isn't always going to be an option. Which isn't always a bad thing.
So if you'll excuse me, let me go set my alarm for tomorrow morning...
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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