Thursday, November 18, 2004



I'm not known for being disciplined. My approach to doing things has always been to apply the minimum necessary discipline, because excess discipline kills. The objective of any exercise is to get the job done and, so long as that's accomplished, I leave the details to themselves. Process is something that needs to bend and move with different situations. I rely on information rather than dogma.

Lu wrote about a dream she had in Of Roots & Dreams, and said "God interpreted the dream over a day later ... the key word this piece of armor was 'discipline.' God said, as long as I continued the way I was, I would still be okay, but I wouldn't get where I wanted to go very fast..."

Discipline is a lot like salt. Salt made of deadly ingredients, sodium and chlorine, and used in excess the compound is also deadly. Just ask the westbound pioneers in Nevada's Forty Mile Desert, who had to go the whole distance while forgoing the alkali springs along the route. Their oxen would smell this deadly salted water and try to run for it and only the fact that the animals were so weak allowed the people to keep them on course.

Everyone told me, as I grew up, that what I needed was more discipline. They were probably right, but the people telling me this were leading lifestyles that held no attraction for me. If that's the result of discipline then I'm not interested. There were no corners, all the smiles were pasted on, duty ruled everything and creativity was hard to find.

At one time I bought this idea and was thinking of joining the Army. I figured the discipline enforced by that would be just the ticket. Fortunately I never did it, and when draft time came along I failed the physical due to eye problems.

Making a sand sculpture takes anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, from site prep to the end of photography. People have told me, many times, that I have great discipline because I can stay with the task for this long. The implication is that they could never do it. I try to tell them the secret but they don't get it. The secret is simple: to me, the time feels like about twenty minutes. The people who ask are so disciplined in their use of time that they can't conceive of this, so the truth just passes by.

I really wonder if this could be the way real life should work. Externally applied discipline could be a sign of failure in the normal process of life. I include in that "external" appellation anytime we tell ourselves what we should do, instead of just going out and doing it as part of life.

We all have ideas of what we "should" be. Discipline is used to bring experience and idea into conformity, and the process is exhausting. If it has to be maintained for a lifetime you get burnout.

There have been times when I've had a complete plan for a sculpture and have been disciplined enough to stick with the plan. The results have ranged from terrible to pretty good. The spectacular sculptures, the ones that ring me like a bell and make me want to come down the next day and try again, are the result of a combination of enough discipline to keep the structure sound with freedom to explore design accidents, with a sort of mental model of how all the parts are fitting with each other.

I fully expected my free-wheeling approach to life to end once God collected me. I was dead meat. Whatever He offered would be an improvement. I looked at the disciplined and busy people around me and saw the future. So far, however, God has used a very light hand. My guess is that He knows what kind of seed I am, and is guiding my growth with various natural factors, things I encounter in daily life. I'm growing into something. I don't know what. Given my long history of destructively misguided growth attempts, I'm just going to let God have His way. Maybe He will teach me how to use discipline properly.

Lu also wrote "Worked at being disciplined in time in the Word, time with Him, in living a godly life. But I lack consistency, so I don't think I've ever achieved it..."

Look at the results, Lu. You're still alive, you're still following Jesus, you're still seeking His heart and hanging onto His coattail. I'd say you've achieved quite a bit. The future beckons, we see its shining heart out there and want it so bad we can taste it, but all we have is today. Please don't ruin your todays for the sake of tomorrow. That, to me, is the essence of bad discipline. I've known many, many people whose "time in the Word" approximates the ideal, but they have no idea of what God's heart is really like. I'll take your example, thank you.

Please note that I'm very aware of how important it is for us to spend time with God and reading His written words to us. These are essential, very much like eating. Go too long without and you start starving. I think this is what sensitivity is for. I can be disciplined--such as learning how to cook--when the subject is important enough. God is life. I need to know Him. Only God Himself can balance all these factors in our lives, and He will give us the hunger we need. Knowing God is like knowing other people: we need to work together, play together, read together, learn together, kick up our heels and have some fun together.

Lord Jesus, please help us to learn your kind of discipline. We need more than rules and law. You came to remove the law and replace it with love but that's a strange language to me, anyway. Help us to learn balance, and thank you for what you've taught us so far. Hold us, please, and help us keep going. Thank you.

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