Discipline in the Christian life is tricky, because the fuel for it can fall on the side of either legalism, or infatuation. Legalism doesn’t end well, because the gas for the journey is our own determination. Infatuation is short lived, too, because it depends on bursts of inspiration, which hardly ever come long enough, or strong enough to keep us motivated. How do you find that sweet expression, of both a determined spirit-filled desire for discipline, and the freedom of enjoying the spontaneous moments life offers?
First, what do I mean by spontaneous moments?
Things like folding laundry as worship, or filling the gas tank with praise. It means opening a can of beans with awe, or watching a favorite show as an act of rest, re-creation, whether that show brings laughter, or serious brooding. I hope you’re smiling over the can of beans. We enjoy the spontaneous, because that’s how God wired us, to connect every movement to worship. It’s our part to be reminded that even in the mundane of life, those repeated functions often have a silver lining, the joy of knowing God is pleased by the gratitude of our hearts.
But here’s the point, disciplined acts of worship can deepen the mundane, and allow us to connect God’s heart in the day to day.
I just started a new discipline. This one’s called ‘morning and evening prayers,’ where I’m writing out prayers to God. In the end, I will have a journal of forty days, and eighty prayers to reflect upon at the burning bush. You might say, that doesn’t sound very original. But wait, here’s the good part. Morning prayer will be after my devotions, and includes what God has said, as well as anything I’m anticipating for that day. It’s a fresh offering by faith for Him to push what I’ve learned into the spontaneous, or mundane parts of my day.
The evening prayer happens as the last act of worship in the day. I’m propped by pillows in bed, ready to knock out. The entire day is behind me, and I’m reflecting on how God showed up, or in my perception, didn’t. It’s what Richard Foster calls, the prayer of examen. It celebrates the way God has met me, as well as allows me to confess the ways I have taken a fall. Both are rejuvenating to me, because in the one I’m celebrating, and the other I’m experiencing forgiveness, that puts my head on the pillow with no regrets. Pure grace, better than a pill!
Here’s my first entry:
“Lord, I remove my sandals. This journey of discipline, crafting prayers from thin air, has a dark and a brilliant side, each terrifying to me in their own way. In the shadows lie my deepest motivations, many of them ugly. On the brilliant end, I notice ways you remind me of how special I am to you, like catching a bass on the second cast, beautiful flashing scales in early morning mist, and a cup of surprisingly good coffee. Abba, if left alone, my freedom would rob my joy, and so manacled to the grace of God, I fall under its spell, especially when I read in John 17, that you pray for me. Why, if my greatest joy comes when I hear your voice, haven’t I violently taken heaven by force, with passionate pleas to Holy God? Some days feel like betrayal, while others are a melding of love, wedded by the Holy Spirit to pull love out of the daily grind… “
Whatever your act of worship, whether it’s in the spontaneous, or in a more regimented discipline, ask God for the motivation to set aside the time, or renew the focus. We can live like deists, with only a vague notion that God is present, and wanting intimacy. These kinds of disciplined acts of worship push heart into the mundane, and find us more intimate, and less anxious; more willing to obey, and far less pushed around by the urgency of life’s demands.
How will you bring love into the mundane?