Friday, November 19, 2004
A Life for Discipline
Lu's Of Roots & Dreams message continues to resonate in me. I know that I have a strong tendency to take what God is doing in me so seriously that I overlook the possibility of humor and lightness. God has played jokes on me. I almost missed them because I'm so zoomed in on staying on the track. I don't ever want to fall off. Excess discipline creeps in and, like strangler fig on a tropical tree, wraps around and chokes the life out of what I'm doing. Oh, I have life but it's a panic-driven and fraidy-cat kind of life. I'd like to be more expansive.
My thinking here is that I don't want to make a mistake that will drive God away. That's popular teaching at work. Sin once and God never forgets; it's outer darkness for you, buddy, and you'll never see light again. Well, telling a human not to sin is sort of like telling a fish not to be wet.
Last night I was praying and thinking about God taking care of me. Is it completely absurd to expect God to meet all of my needs? It seems like cheating. People who don't know Jesus don't have the resources I have for living, and they just can't see them. Words won't carry the message. Life, I think, will, and an expansive life is probably the best way to do it. But to live that way means abandoning my ideas of security and trusting that God will not only accept my mistakes, but encourage me when I do. To try experiments and fail, and expect Him to pick me up when everything goes on the ground. The only way to find out what things God will take care of is to try something. If He doesn't help, then He expected me to do it.
One step pretty much demands the next. I'm just following my nose; there is no map except in the Bible's general terms.
People in churches talk about fellowship, and give the Bible's example of iron sharpening iron. We're supposed to exhort each other to ever higher levels of commitment, bang on each other so that we become better instruments. I wonder about this. I think it's one of those cases wherein the words are so memorable that this idea has shone brighter than some other ideas that are equally important.
Lu wrote, about my comment on another message: "His comment brought such hope to me! And a spark of life. This is what I miss from LA. I miss my Life Group." I'm a little different. God has been my life group; I don't have regular enough contact with people here to make the sort of friends that Lu is talking about. Maybe it's like language: unless you learn how to relate at a young age, the basic principles forever escape you. God may have to be my life group for the rest of my life. Is this unnatural? Is it unhealthy? I don't know. I do know that He is supporting me beautifully and gracefully.
Should I try to be more disciplined and get into a life group of people? Am I making a mistake here that's going to really upset God if I don't get going on changes? Or is my current use of a combination of factors: an occasional meeting with friends, Email, Blogging, and prayer and thinking a good enough technique for now? Maybe this is an example of God's flexibility, introducing me to the resources that I can use, rather than forcing me to use resources that scare me or don't work.
One thing is sure. I'm through making apologies for who I am. If God wants me to change, He'll have to show me the way. I can be disciplined, but I am not going to pull it out of thin air and manufacture a way of life to suit someone else. I told myself that when I went to that first Mosaic meeting, and I'm holding to it now. I'd rather have honest mistakes that dishonest perfection.
I know the importance of discipline. If I don't pack the sculpture's foundation properly it will fail. If I don't spend time with God, I will come apart. The nature of that time, however, is very flexible. Sometimes it's a mountain bike ride. Back in the days when I could walk, it could be a walk on the beach. At night it's usually some time reading the Bible, but some nights God lets me know that what He wants is for me to be quiet, calm down, don't read, and just be together. Sometimes I'll be doing something routine, and God will get my attention to get me off that usual track. Wake up. Look around you. I'm not going to go away if you quit looking at Me for a second. Remember those years when you told everyone I didn't exist?
Yes, I do remember. He let me slip, to prove His point, but I never crashed hard. He protected me and guided my steps even then. Why do I think that I have to force so much discipline now? I'm trying to keep God with me by performing, but He doesn't want a trained animal. He wants a living human being, with all my odd angles and attitudes.
Father God, I ask you today that all who read this, and I, will learn to be confident in what You're doing for us. We believe. Help our unbelief, please, so that we will live lives of such richness that we overflow with your kindness. Thank you for knowing us and loving us anyway.
There's so much here. I'm sure this will end up being another cross-blog discussion. I, too, have been contemplating the discipline aspect. And some conversations I've had recently have added fuel to my brain fires.
For example, I had a two-hour conversation with some of the people from my team about what community really is. It was so interesting because, while I knew in my head that people have different concepts and desires for what community is to them, I hadn't experienced such a dynamic range of ideas on this subject in a long time. We were all on very different pages when we talked about "community". Could it be that perhaps we, Christ's followers, are all on different pages than Jesus is when it comes to this issue as well?
The idea of iron sharpening iron is another I think we may be on a different page than God. This kind of conversation, to me, is iron sharpening iron. And the conversation I had Wednesday night did too. So it seems that community comes in all shapes and sizes... and even variety packs. :)
Could we be on different pages than Jesus in the issue of discipline as well? I know that 2 Tim 1:7 says, "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." But what does that really mean to God?
What that's always said to me is that I don't need to pray for self discipline, I already have it... as part of God's gifts. I just need to exercise it (a word I really don't like).
But what if I just really suck at exercise? Which, by the way, I do. Will God help me even then? Or is it like humility... "humble yourself...?
Or is it, perhaps, that we are trying to globally apply in our lives a gift that is really meant to be focused only on certain areas? Your post yesterday about discipline and sand sculpture first got me thinking about this idea. Perhaps we're trying to make ourselves into cookie-cutter cutouts when it comes to discipline, instead of rejoicing in our differences in this regard as well as in other areas of our lives. You're disciplined in an area of creativity and life that I am not. And the same for me in reverse.
That, in my mind, leads us directly back to the idea that we are all different parts of one body. And we need each other -- even in this area of discipline. I desperately needed your natural discipline in troubleshooting at BH Mosaic. And you needed my discipline in mixing....
Or am I just mixing up gifts...? I don't know... I think I've played out in this rain of ideas enough for the moment... I'm kinda covered in mud. I think I got some on you too.... :)
It's fun to get muddy like this! But I guess I should take a quick shower now... since I'm expecting company later.
It certainly doesn't mean beating ourselves up, which is the model we're given. We have God's spirit, and yet we still try to live within our own devices. Could it be that the Holy Spirit helps us with discipline? He lets us know when something needs to be done, and otherwise leaves us free to make decisions?
--->I desperately needed your natural discipline in troubleshooting at BH Mosaic. And you needed my discipline in mixing....
Yes. I simply couldn't have done the mixing. Everyone hears the mistakes and it's too much pressure for me. I think the key concept here is "...natural discipline..." because that's the way it happened. I've learned troubleshooting in many different ways, and it has been about as hard as falling off a log. For you, mixing is easy and the pressure just makes you do it better.
Why then do we always try to become like other people? Why do churches work so hard to assign people to groups and then deal with the group as a whole? God deals with individuals, 6.6 billion of them at last count.
--->I'm kinda covered in mud. I think I got some on you too.... :)
It's OK. I won't shrink in the wash.
I think one of the most important aspects of discipline is to understand that I don't know everything. I need to know the limits of my knowledge, rather than trying to force new events into old models. I need to be teachable. I need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's guidance. His discipline is surprisingly light.