Discipline, it’s not one of those magnetic words that the minute we hear it sticks, and we are determined to have it. Yet, I believe this is the word that God has asked me to focus on in 2019. Unlike the first thoughts I had, I’ve come to understand it’s not a word that has been asked of me to wrestle my heart, mind, and soul into submission. God isn’t like that. He may pursue us relentlessly, but he does not drag us down and twist our arm behind our backs until we say “uncle”. He does not send us to our room and tell us we can not come out until we are ready to do what it is he has asked of us. God makes requests, gives us space, and sometimes consequences. Deeply desiring that we will, in the end, choose him.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)
Jesus had chosen his 12 apostles at this point and was beginning to teach them in the manner of the Jewish rabbi, or teacher. He would lead them to become disciples. He spent time with them. He talked with them about their thoughts, and he pulled examples from the daily experiences they shared.
Why have I chosen discipline? Because my soul needs rest! I read a lovely little book by Michelle DeRusha entitled “5 Unconventional Spiritual Practices For Your Soul”* In her chapter entitled The Spiritual Practice of Walking the Dog, yes, you read that correctly, she says this:
“The restless agitation we feel simmering just under the surface hints that we are missing something important, that our souls are yearning for more, but we don’t allow ourselves the silence and space to figure out what that something is.”
And if I’m honest, I do have that restless agitation. I realize that I want to spend this year going deeper with God. While my temptation is always to go wider, how much more can I read, how much more can I learn, always more! I am ready to do things differently. I want to spend more time just being with God. Because really that is what the spiritual disciplines are about.
My temptation is to seek distraction over quiet. To choose doing over being.
And so, I challenge myself to:
- Sit in silence with God each day. Not try to do anything for Him, or say anything. Just be with him.
- Listen while I sit. I want to hear all God has to say to me. Not just grab a quick answer to a question I’ve asked then whisper thanks and jump up and be on my way.
- Experience the practices that Jesus observed while on this earth. These include prayer, fasting, study of the scriptures, and time with friends.
For me, this is the essence of the spiritual disciplines. To learn from Jesus’ example. Jesus tells me that his lessons provide rest for our souls. This mind that never seems to shut down could use a bit of rest. And so I begin. I spend time with Jesus, I watch him, and I listen in prayer and silence. And I respond to those gentle lessons. And contrary to our modern interpretation of discipline as in pushing and punishing ourselves into submission, I’m instead going to choose discipleship. And if you look closely, you will see that there is a common root.
What about you?
Are you ready for some quiet time at Jesus’ feet? If so, will you think of joining me on this quest for personal change? For growing deeper without striving harder? I just love that my Jesus says tie yourself to me (that’s what a yoke is, it ties two together.) And when you do, I’m going to do the heavy lifting. You will not find that what I ask of you is difficult. As a matter of fact, you will find rest.
*DeRusha, Michelle. 5 Unconventional Spiritual Practices for Your Soul. Michelle DeRusha. Kindle Edition. It’s a free book, of just 24 pages. So if you read on kindle then consider grabbing it here.