We are fighting an uphill battle within our culture, our generation, and ourselves against instant-gratification. The idea that working for something is beautiful and beneficial went out the window with mix-tapes.
This week your Hopers are going to look at seven different areas where growth could be and should be happening – thanks to discipline.
What does that word conjure up as you think about it? Does the idea of discipline make you groan? More than likely the successes we’ve experienced in one season or another are thanks to preparation, restraint and self-control. Whether it was getting through grad school or losing weight, we wouldn’t have reached the finish line without a serious amount of willpower and commitment.
However, there are likely many areas in your life (there sure are in mine!) where I only aim to thrive where I’m naturally inclined or gifted. Because you know what discipline requires!? Discipline! UGH! The cruel irony! And so, if there’s a trait or talent that can carry us while we ignore some of the good hard work that discipline requires, we will skate by on what comes naturally.
Case in point: I switched majors during undergrad, and while some admired my successes in an arduous theology program, what they might not have “figured out” about me is that I got A’s anytime preaching, teaching, or speaking was required and struggled anytime the original language (Greek or Hebrew) of the text was required.
I’ve always known how to encourage or convict a crowd from the front of the room, and I’ve always been caught in the eleventh hour sweating profusely in the library basement when just good ol’ fashioned unglamorous research was a part of the assignment. It’s moments when we have to put our nose to the grindstone or “our feet on the floor”, as my dad would say, that our metal is proven. And frankly, I’d rather win a medal for what comes easily.
God loves discipline, He even included it in a list where it doesn’t seem obvious:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Okay buddy, now here comes the tough part…
Where do you get squirmy about self-control?
And I’m not gonna let you get away with answering “I drink too much soda pop.”
Where in your heart and life has the Holy Spirit piped up that there’s work needing done and you’ve said “Nah, no thanks” and stayed lazy & selfish?
Later this week we’ll tackle some of the obvious areas, finances and physicality, but today let’s look at an area where discipline grows something beautiful and Christ-like, though it might not have been the most obvious:
Friendships should be cultivated through time and memory-making, a whole lot of laughing and maybe even vacations and matching manicures. But the foundation of friendship? Should be the kind of Christ-like love that requires discipline because firstly and mostly it is selfless. And unless you’re Mother Theresa, that takes work. There’s a popular Tim Keller quote that oft gets bandied about referring to marriage, but I think it surely applies to any relationship – that the goal shouldn’t be happiness, but holiness.
Many of us have pals that don’t believe in Jesus, AND WE SHOULD! There should always, always, always be hearts we love deeply that we carry to the cross, lives we are invested in and available to as we share the gospel boldly in vested relationship.
But inside of the bonds with other brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord has high hopes and expectations of how we “do” this thing called friendship:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Bearing with one another.
Rarely have we described an easy situation as one we’ve had to “bear.”
With the “bearing with one another” comes the understanding that tough stuff is expected, almost required. Our selfish, and sometimes superficial, selves can be tempted to run away when things get hard or awkward.
This past weekend held some of both, and it was because of me. And it required the discipline not to run away.
I’d love to spend my word count blathering on and on about how I’ve disciplined myself to pursue others and love well & intentionally over the years, even when it’s been inconvenient. Heck – especially when it’s been inconvenient! That would be true and it’d feel like a mighty good pat on the back. But, as one of your Hopers I can tell you that quite “coincidentally” the Holy Spirit goes before us, and we’ve found that oftentimes whatever we plan to write about – He throws a curveball before we sit down to type and wrings new truths out of experiences we weren’t expecting…
On Saturday afternoon I met a friend to get our nails painted. We spent an hour catching up, and then, in the back corner of a sweet little salon, we waded into deep waters. Speaking of scripture and whether or not God’s love was real – I certainly hadn’t foreseen this little galpal date jumping quite so far into the deep end, but as a girl who hates the shallow end, was relatively comfortable talking about it (as long as that’s all it was – just talking about it.)
After feeling far too vulnerable in front of this friend, in whose estimation I want to stay strong and smart and capable, I gathered up my purse and jacket. When, in her signature sweet calm voice, she asked if she could pray over me. Her earnest eyes meant it when she said “I really would love to.”
It was at that moment I wanted to cut and run, but if I had, I would’ve missed out on something beautiful. It was at that moment I wanted to respond “No no, let me pray for you!” Instead, I told her how awkward I was and how uncomfortable I felt, but walked with her to her car to sit in the front seat and let her hold my hand and let her pray over me and into deep, scared, tender parts of my spiritual underbelly that I rarely let anyone see.
I cried so much that my mascara ran down to my chin and snot ran practically down to my knees. But it was A GIFT BEYOND WORDS. In that bit of eternity, there was kindness and a supernatural bearing together. There was love and peace and so much thankfulness. There was the beautiful actuality of how and why God created friendship in the first place … and I would’ve missed it if I hadn’t disciplined myself to do the thing that feels difficult for me instead of the thing that feels easy.
There are so many other areas of friendship that require our discipline – our love and conversation, accountability and forgiveness, pursuit and intentionality.
Do you have relationships in your life with deep roots and beautiful blooms? I doubt it’s because of only laughter and road trips, but instead because you’ve richly tilled your own heart and worked hard to love well. (In addition to the laughter and the road trips!)
Keep at it.
Choose them over you.
With their mess.
With your own.
Even when it’s not fun. Or convenient. Or affordable.
Even when life gets busy. And loud. And hard.
How can you discipline that beautiful heart of yours to, TODAY, show love to a pal in a way that will bless them and honor the Lord that doesn’t come easily? That takes hard work and the Holy Spirit?
Well, friend, DO IT.