You probably know that lots of people pick a “word” for the year. Out with resolutions and in with trendy words. I’ve done this and if you’ve read any of my past blog posts you know that they have been woven into my life over the years and I’m better for it.
So, this year I could not shake the word Discipline. ugh. I have struggled with discipline for most of my life. No, I wasn’t a trouble maker. I was very concerned that I stay out of trouble. Discipline for me was to stay out of trouble and not color outside the lines, do things out of order or take risks. It kept me out of trouble, it also formed some expectations in my life that I am now having to shake.
Discipline does not = perfection.
When I initially think of discipline I think of health and exercise. It is just honestly the first thing that comes to mind. I think I need to be disciplined in my healthy eating habits, exercise every day and never stray. The unrealistic idea of what discipline is in that, then brings heavy defeat and guilt when I don’t keep my habits in perfect alignment to what “discipline” means. House keeping has been this for me. If my housekeeping routine isn’t perfect and consistent then it’s wrong, I’m wrong, it’s all wrong… lies. The way I relax even brought me stress, I know I know, because I was overly concerned with if I was relaxing right…efficiently…I mean, really. I would try to watch a show on Netflix, read a book, just be quiet, rest, take a nap, journal, etc… but I would be thinking of a million other things while “resting”. That’s not resting. Meal plans, if I don’t stick to them, if I change my mind or life happens and we end up eating out, in my brain, I just think, “what’s the point of the meal plan if we just do whatever else anyway…”so I give up on meal plans. If I miss a couple of days on my Bible reading plan, I would have just given up and quit. I did that, for many years. What a prison I have lived in, thinking success and “discipline” are actually being and doing things perfectly.
I still struggle with this.
I have found, though, that this last year as I put into practice some new things, they paved way for habits that have brought more “discipline” to my life.. but they are far from perfect practices.
I’ll be honest with you, I fail at these a lot, but I’m finding that discipline is actually doing something, failing in there too, until it becomes a natural response. I remember many times I have been stressed, overwhelmed and frustrated and I would just implode (and yes explode sometimes). I didn’t have any sort of discipline in place that would help combat the crazy. Until this year, I would just muddle through until it passed. Prayer, yes, Bible reading some… but, I would just manage. This last Easter I was preparing for Night of Worship and Easter services at church and I just kept hearing God tell me to “stay in the cloud” with Him. You know, like the cloud of his presence that would hover over the tabernacle. I would stay in that place with him throughout the week to not get distracted or over stressed. I thought the next week, why would I just stay in his presence for a big event? Why would I not make time and practice intentionally being in his presence, just because? So, no I don’t just sit with earbuds in and worship music going, a candle lit and just ignore the world, but I will tell you, that I do get intentional about what I listen to, read, and I end up journal praying, a lot. I dig in the Word, I get alone when I can, I self talk a bunch of truth so that I get out of my negative thoughts and stay in the truth. I am not perfect at this, but it is becoming more of my normal response to intense times than it was months ago. It is becoming a natural response, perhaps even habitual.
Discipline is not perfection. It is realizing that grace isn’t a means to do whatever we want, but permission to do our best and still mess up. So we continue on this journey of life with a choice. We can either strive for perfection and give up often, never actually getting anywhere with our dreams, goals or daily practices. Or, we can live each day, to the best of our ability, extending ourselves and others grace, but to NOT QUIT when it gets tough or when we fail.
We will fail, you know. And when we do, the thing about discipline is this: we may stop, pause, reflect, re-evaluate, shift our focus or thoughts, but we learn to not just give up. We don’t throw in the towel. We don’t self implode with being our own worst critic, having pity parties for days, or blame the world for everything going on inside of us. We are able to step back, have perspective and breathe. It is possible to step out of a situation, out of an issue and gather yourself.
Giving grace to ourselves is the key to having any sort of success.
I believe wholeheartedly that our success in marriage, mothering, our jobs, meeting goals, financial dreams, parenting in general.. grace.
Grace paves the way for true discipline. Discipline doesn’t come before the grace.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Isn’t that beautiful. While we were still sinning…in the midst of our mess ups, our hardship, our rebellion..our darkest….Christ died for us. Grace. We do not have to clean up or get disciplined before he saves us. He saves us, right where we are. Salvation comes in while we are the worst. Once we are walking with him in relationship, no matter the length of time, He always comes in, no matter where we find ourselves and grace meets us where we are.
Did you yell at your kid today in a selfish outburst? Is it hurting your heart how often you argue with your spouse? Is it frustrating how many times you “start the diet”? Do you wish you could get a handle on a habit? a bad habit? Grace. Right now. Today, in this moment. It is available. It is real. It is enough. Start over. Refresh your mental page. Close some tabs. Be present in the moment you are in and just stop. Allow God to forgive you of the sin, release you from the frustration, refocus your heart for him and for how much he truly loves you and is on your side.
Discipline is not perfection. Perfection is unattainable. Holiness is the goal though. Isn’t that the irony of this walking with Christ thing? In humility and grace, we say we cannot accomplish this, we cannot measure up. Allowing Him to do the hard work in us, though, will create growth, it will refine us, it will naturally cause us to care more, be aware, do the right thing, make the hard right choice. When we know how lavishly we are loved, that love spurs us on to true faith. Faith in it’s purest form is response to Him. Response in trust, real belief and then living that out in daily ways.
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without [a]your works, and I will show you my faith by [b]my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is [c]dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made [d]perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was [e]accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
So faith, truest form of worship, trusting that He sees you and loves you where you are…makes way for growth, change and grasping the discipline we so need. Life changing is what this as been for me. I don’t have to have it perfect or not at all. I don’t have to see immediate results or give up. I don’t have to get it right the first time I’m wrong forever.
Let’s be encouraging, to US. Let’s be honest in our struggles and our frustrations. Let’s breathe life into ourselves. Let’s breathe life into each other. Let’s show grace to ourselves and then to each other, our spouses, our children… when we live in a place of grace, we quit the fight, we release our white knuckles from the grip of perfection.
I know Emily Ley– author of Grace Not Perfection and The Simplified Life, has hit on this subject in a very rich way! I am so thankful for these books that have helped me in this. Look into her resources for some fun inspiration and tools to help.
Overall, as we head into summer, let’s give ourselves permission to breathe. Let’s walk in grace, rest in it and then allow ourselves to keep going in the hard things, knowing we are being refined, pruned even, spurred on and pushed into new and better life, daily. Each day is a new chance for new life.
My oldest daughter said just yesterday, “mom, life is like a chapter book. Each part of my life is a new chapter and it won’t ever end because it will continue into heaven.” Yes, dear. That is the HOPE of GLORY! We do this life, to the best of our ability and in all the grace He gives. Then we get to live in the perfection of more life, after this one here. HOPE! GLORY! NEVER ENDING! We don’t have to give up because the prize of eternal life, glory, the presence of God is something Christ won for us on the cross. AND we can LIVE from that truth NOW.
Let’s not give up! As we continue in this journey of grace, #findingtheheart becomes like life to us! It becomes something we naturally just see. We see the grace in the hard place, we see the spark of light in the darkness, we become the good news in a world of bad.
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Here for you! Let’s do life together. Ups and downs, twists and turns… we’re in this!
As a sweet friend of mine said at a women’s ministry fellowship Sunday, “we are better together. We are good on our own, but we are better together”.