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Do Hard things

While I was running in the rain last night, I kept trying to define the word discipline in my mind. And once I had a definition, I repeated it in my head over and over again until I got home. “Discipline is consistently doing the challenging things that make me better.”

I was also reminded of a quote from Richard Foster who wrote the Christian classic, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, in which Foster made the claim that “discipline brings freedom.” So let’s make a sandwich out of these two quotes and discuss them briefly. After all, the Wesleys and the Holy Club to which they belonged were definitely known for their disciplined life. And if we are going to follow Jesus in the Methodist way, perhaps we should reflect on what it means to live a disciplined life.

Experientially, I know that I have a certain aversion to discipline. Perhaps you have experienced a similar reaction to discipline in your own life. Like two positive poles of magnets, it seems impossible to push me to be disciplined. There is a natural repulsion that happens somewhere in the depths of my soul.

For instance, I know that we will experience more personal financial freedom if Camille and I are disciplined enough to sit down to make a budget quarterly and then to review it, and hold ourselves accountable to it on a regular basis. From the outside though, a budget seems restrictive, confining, and the opposite of freedom -- but that is the paradox of discipline. Doing the challenging thing seems like a loss of freedom initially. But when we do it consistently, when we show up repetitively, we begin to experience the freedom that is born from those cumulative acts of discipline.

We also know that disciplined people are prone to be proud people. And pride is the first of the seven deadly sins. So how do we stave off our aversion to discipline, so that we can experience freedom, without falling into the trap door of pride? How do we let discipline grow but keep pride in check?

In the Christian faith, being a disciple/apprentice of Jesus starts with the spirit of Christ pursuing, wooing, whispering, shouting, calling, and inviting us into this totally immersive discipleship lifestyle. And because it starts with God, we can’t boast or take credit. We also should come to realize that it is that same spirit of Christ that gives us the desire to show up consistently and to believe that our disciplined actions will benefit ourselves and those around us.

I’m convinced that an undisciplined life is a recipe for a mediocre life, which is why I look forward to watching people recommit to supporting Christ UMC through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. May it be so!

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