“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 –The Message
Ouch. That word discipline conjures up some painful memories for me. Memories like spanking, portion control, exercise schedules, preparation for final exams, practice, and alarm clocks.
If you quit reading right now, I don’t blame you. Discipline. The word isn’t usually associated with fun or even success for that matter.
What if I were to tell you that in order to experience a successful and enjoyable existence, first we must practice–you guessed it–discipline.
If we want well-behaved children, sometimes we must spank them. If we want to experience life in a healthy body, we watch how much we eat and engage in exercise. (I’m still saying “ouch.”) If we want to maintain good grades in college, we study for the final exam. If we want to learn how to play a musical instrument, we practice. If we don’t want to be late for work, people like me set the alarm clock.
The spiritual life works the same way. To experience success in our growth as Christ’s disciples, we practice discipline. To enjoy our relationship with God, we practice discipline.
The word isn’t as scary as it sounds. Spiritually speaking, the concept of discipline isn’t always associated with pain. Instead, discipline becomes a pattern, our way of life. As a musician, I think of it as a rhythm. The beat, the pulse, which runs through a song gives it consistency and structure. In the same way, our lives need the stability of a relationship with the Lord.
How do we celebrate discipline? Instead of being the result of celebration, disciplines (i.e. spiritual rhythms) are the vehicles to help us get there. We stay in tune with God through the consistent use of a pattern. The resulting changes and growth that develop inside us are gradual. They take time. We don’t feel it at first, but over the course of months or years, we notice that we think differently. Our hearts are softer. We’re more attuned to God’s voice and can see a little clearer his work in our life.
This is definitely something to celebrate. While we take joy in who we’re becoming, God meets us in all the sweet little ways of victory, love, and his presence in the quiet.
Lots of times, spiritual rhythms are things we already do or know how to do. Maybe we even engage in them without realizing the benefits these activities reap for our souls. Here are a few recognized spiritual rhythms that help us draw closer to God and find joy in his presence:
Hospitality and Service. Counting our blessings. Reading Scripture. Rest and silence. Prayer. Worship. Care of the Earth. Fasting. Truth telling. Connecting with our Community. Unplugging.
Prayer: Dear Lord, you are a good God. I praise you for who you are. I open myself up to your presence and invite you to come work in my life. Amen