Spiritual Discipline

It's a shame really that spiritual disciplines have such an ominous moniker (technically, I should say "nickname" as I suspect the disciplines did not name themselves). In any event, the word "discipline" conjures up such an array of negative images: punishment (in fact, discipline's first definition in Merriam Webster), rules and regulations (though I'm not entirely convinced these are always bad), enforcement, control. Regardless, we have spiritual discipline. Sadly, one of the words original meanings, now obsolete, is simply "instruction" - a definition which ties disicpline closely to its Latin roots 'disciplina' (teaching, learning), from discipulus (pupil). [Again, my thanks to Merriam Webster].

In the adult forum at Transfiguration this morning I was introducing the idea of developing a Rule of Life as a viable alternative (an improvement?) to New Year's Resolutions. I suggested, as I did in my sermon last week, that resolutions start from sin and try to work us toward grace by our own volition or will power. An endeavor that will always call us up short (cf. Romans 7:5ff - notice how I avoided the messy bit about women being bound by the law to their husbands).

The disciplines, on the other hand, begin from the abundance of grace that God has given each of us through Jesus Christ. Because of God's grace, working within us, we desire to know God more fully. But, just like playing basketball (or tennis or curling, for that matter), if we want to become better at knowing God, to have a deeper experience of life in Christ, we must practice, practice, practice. And practice isn't always fun.

When I was in high school, I joined the curling team - I'd never curled before in my life. Before I showed up for practice that first day, I didn't even know what curling was. What I did know is that a girl who was a junior - and I only a freshman - asked me to join. I thought she was cool. Therefore, I said yes. If you have ever known someone who is spiritually grounded, who seems really connected to God, you might have asked them, how did you become this way. I suspect that their answer will be through prayer (or its variants: journaling, meditating, walking a labyrinth, reading the Bible, volunteering in a homeless shelter, etc.). You want what they have (in a spiritual sense), so you become willing to go to any lengths to get that for yourself. The lengths that you go to are your spiritual disciplines, your instruction to developing a deeper relationship with God and learning to live out of God's abundant grace rather than living a life based on human will power (cf. Galatians 6:8).