One aspect of my trips to Minnesota which I always find difficult is going to bed. I know, you may not think this is a big deal, but allow me to explain. To being with, Minnesota is two hours ahead of Washington. On top of that, I am a natural night owl who tends to turn on at about 8 or 9 at night. And last but not least, I have grown quite accustomed to going to bed at the same time as my wife. When I'm alone, going to bed always seems odd, like something's missing. The problem with all of this is that class starts in the morning at 8 AM (6 AM, Pacific Time), no matter what time I go to bed. So I can stay up late and waste hours waiting until my West Coast body is really ready for sleep, or I can decide to go to bed early and do my best to rest. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I go to class on 4 or 5 hours of sleep. (This is not recommended).
This has me thinking about the nature of discipline. For me to go to bed early while in Minnesota is an act of personal discipline. I've been working on a definition of discipline that goes something likes this, "Doing what we don't like to achieve results we do like." I don't like going to bed early, but I really don't like falling asleep in class. So, the result I seek to achieve is a rested and alert mind, which means I must do something I don't necessarily like; aka, going to bed early. I've been truly amazed at how difficult this can be. I mean, just crawl into bed, right? But on some evenings, so much of my mind and spirit rebels against this.
Discipline is certainly something needed when taking Greek. I find myself frequently doing things I don't like (memorizing paradigms, sitting through hours and hours of class, etc.) These activities are not particularly enjoyable, but I can see a result I'd like to achieve. I want to understand God's Word better and feel more confident in how I use the Bible in my sermons. And so again, I find myself doing what I don't like in order to achieve results I do like.
Discipline is rarely easy. (This sounds reminiscent of my last post.) And because it requires some work or effort, we are tempted to shy away from activities that require discipline. But I think God calls us to look at the results we want in our life, and discipline ourselves accordingly. Do we want to grow closer to Him? Then we discipline ourselves in prayer and the study of His Word. Do we want to be healthy physically? Then we discipline ourselves in our eating and our exercising. Do we want a better marriage? We must discipline ourselves to put our spouse first. Over and over, we choose to do things we don't like, or things that would be easier not to do, in order that we might achieve the results we're looking for in life.
And the truth I find is that the more we purposefully enter into discipline, the easier it gets. Several years ago when I began running, I hated it. I did not like to run. But I liked the results I was getting and how it made me feel, so I kept running. Slowly, over the years, it became something I tolerated, then enjoyed, and finally something that I actually looked forward to. I would have never believed you had you told me that I would one day find running to be one of the best parts of my day. But through discipline, even what was once difficult has become life-giving.
So for now, I keep studying Greek, I keep running, I keep praying, I keep going to bed early. And my hope and prayer is that through all of these disciplines, I will be more and more the person God has called and created me to be. How about you?
May you believe that discipline makes the journey better,