celebrating discipline

Consistency

Constant. Reliable. Even. Steady. Stable. Consistent.

I want to be these things.

My personality naturally lends itself to spontaneity, often bucking routine or structure in favor of being free to do things spur-of-the-moment. I tend to want to do things when I feel like doing them, rather than just doing them because I know I need to get them done. I want to do things as I feel inspired because then they somehow seem more authentic and…free.

Part of my growing up has been balancing this desire for inspiration and freedom with consistency, structure and routine. The funny thing is that even though I don’t naturally lean towards structure, I actually love it. I like it when people tell me what to do or when I have a commitment I can’t get out of. In a weird way, consistency and discipline actually leads to freedom.

In high school I had to be at swim practice for two hours a day and couldn’t get out of it. It forced me to work out, be healthy and *gasp* get better. I became a better swimmer because I was in a routine of practicing it daily.

But as I quickly learned when I entered adult life, if something is important to me, I may just have to make it happen. No one will be handing me a structured life. If I want to be physically fit and not wheeze at the top of a flight of stairs, I should probably work out. If I want to feel more comfortable playing the piano, I should probably play it a few times a week. I might want to practice. I might want to be consistent.

Oh, what a lesson! I feel this is something God and I will be talking about for many years. I hear myself say, “I want…” and “Wouldn’t it be neat if I…” and I hear Him whisper back, “So do it.” He calls me to discipline, to consistency and structure. And who would have thought, in that structure there is freedom.

Last year, I had this book on my shelf that I wanted to read and it is quite long. I would look at it and think, “I’m going to read that, I really am.” But I kept putting it off because I’m in grad school and, come on, reading long non-fiction books for fun just doesn’t happen.

Then it was May, I was free, and I again saw the book on the shelf, eagerly looking back at me, longing to be taken down and opened. I heard a voice say, “So do it.” I took a deep breath, took the book off the shelf and made small daily goals to get the book read before flying off on my summer adventure.

It seemed odd to regiment this activity that I love precisely because it is unstructured, but I actually enjoyed it. I finished the book and loved it. I learned a lot. At the end, I smiled and said, “There. I did it.” I couldn’t believe I actually made a goal and stuck to it. The process wasn’t perfect and it took me a little longer than I planned, but I was able to finish something I started.

I saw the enjoyment in consistency and realized that discipline is real and good.

It also reminded me that self-control and discipline comes when we want something enough to lay aside other things for it. When we set our hope on a prize, such as finishing a 600 page non-fiction book, we will make it a priority.

When I fix my eyes on Jesus, my prize and joy, and set my mind on things above, I will make Him a priority. By knowing Him,sharing Him with others and not letting anything get in the way of that will make me a disciplined person. I will want to be in the Word daily and mediate on the Truth. I may say no to things – or even yes – because of Him.

Constant. Reliable. Even. Steady. Stable. Consistent.

That’s who Jesus is. And when I look at Him – by His grace – I can become those things too.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. (Hebrews 12:2-3)

Categories: celebrating discipline, reading | Leave a comment

Clean it out

There has been a janky smell coming from our fridge recently.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened and when I noticed it a *cough cough* few weeks ago, I groaned and thought, I don’t even want to deal with that. I knew there were things in there that had been made and sealed in tupperware, waiting to be eaten with the best of intentions. There were vegetables from our CSA box that we didn’t know what to do with and left them there to rot (literally). I hate how wasteful this makes me, but what can I say, life happened and I got lazy and ate out more and left the country for a bit.

Then before I knew it, I was avoiding my kitchen or even opening the fridge because of that. smell. I didn’t want to know exactly where it was coming from, I just wanted it to go away.

But it never does, does it? Things don’t go away on their own. Bad smells and messy rooms and dirty laundry don’t clean themselves. They’re 1) made by me and 2) waiting patiently to be dealt with. I almost wish things would actually grow legs and walk out on their own, as mothers are known for claiming. Goodbye soup-from-two-months-ago! Have a nice life, don’t forget to write.

Last week I was kind of in avoidance mode, just trying to survive 12 hour days at my internship, getting caught up at work and taking a midterm. I bought food meal-by-meal almost everyday and reveled in the immediate gratification it brought me. Who has time to cook anyway.

But enough is enough. I knew this was the weekend – this was the weekend I was going to get my head right and clean some things out. I knew I needed to be wise and go grocery shopping so that I wasn’t spending all of my money on coffee and muffins and pre-made salads from Whole Foods (seriously, can’t get enough). But I didn’t want to go shopping and put the new stuff in the fridge until I dealt with whatever was going on behind that closed door.

So Sunday night, I made my (fairly) routine trip to Trader Joe’s for my weekly groceries, came home and opened the fridge. I braced myself, squatted down and reached in the back and in the drawers and started pulling things out. Oh, there were definitely groans and gags and maybe some choice words. But all the bad stuff came out and the fresh stuff went in. Afterward I stepped back, sighed and relaxed. All is well in the kitchen.

After, as I was cleaning up, I started thinking again about how metaphorical it all was. This isn’t the first time I’ve mused over the fact that my messes and hidden smells relate to the messes and hidden things in my heart. There are most likely things inside me that have been ignored and not opened in a while, not even with the Lord. Things like feelings about relationships, my romantic desires, annoying habits and real fears. Sometimes I just say, nope, let’s leave that one closed for a little bit longer. It’s sealed nice and tight and I don’t want to know what it will smell like when it’s opened.

But cleaning things out is a healthy process, and the Lord is gracious and abounding in steadfast love. He listens and counts my tears when I finally open a messy drawer in my heart and admit to what’s inside.

I also thought about my desire for consistency and how I struggle with it. I want to be a consistent, committed person. I want to have a clean fridge, a clean room, a clean heart, but life happens. I get distracted and tired. I love to cook and definitely do it more than I used to, but sometimes I go weeks without turning on the stove. I love spending time in the Word and reflecting on Him who made me, but sometimes I choose to do other things and push Him aside. This year I decided to wake up each morning and spend time with the Lord, to continue and further a discipline I started last year. But sometimes I’m groggy and can’t make out the words on the page. Sometimes I just don’t do it and choose to sleep later instead.

Even though it drives me crazy that I’m not perfect and don’t always do or finish the things I set out to do, what matters is starting again. Thankfully the Lord looks at my heart, and in it I hope He sees my desires to know Him and love Him more. My actions might not always reflect those desires, but they are there. I just can’t be consistent on my own. I need help and I’m learning a lot about this. What is the line between discipline and grace? Where do I end and where does God begin?

Maybe the point is to keep trying, keep being aware, keep coming back. When I stumble, I just want to recognize it and ask for help back up. I want to reach out and feel that Strong Hand grab mine and pull me up to my feet and into a warm embrace.

My fridge will probably stink again. I will get overwhelmed and start eating out more than cooking again. I won’t always wake up and carve out intentional time for Jesus. My heart will get stinky and messy again too. But maybe I won’t take as long to clean it out next time.

Categories: celebrating discipline, musings | 2 Comments

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