The Art of Discipline

For as long as I can remember I’ve always been a little obsessive compulsive. When I was younger, I would always have to have my room clean and things in order before leaving for school or it would wreck my day. My brother and sisters would actually play a game where they would move one item in my room and I would come in and pick it out on the spot. While my parents rarely had to worry about my room being dirty, they probably did worry about the other negative effects of this personality trait.

Keeping my personality in mind, you can imagine what my initial reaction was the other day when I discovered that my normal running path at Hewitt Park was closed due to construction. I decided to just run around my neighborhood rather than returning home, and I found that by the end of my three mile run I had shaved almost a good 4 minutes off of my normal time. This scenario has done a great job of reminding me of the difference between legalism and spiritual discipline. Legalism is focusing on the path rather than the run. Of course there is nothing is wrong with the discipline of running just as long as you don’t get obsessed with the route you take or let the discipline dominate your life.

In the same way, building in spiritual disciplines are a great habit and can produce much fruit in your life, but the moment those disciplines replace the relationship you have with Christ then you have ventured into legalism. Sometimes frustration over missing out on a certain routine can cause your day or week to spiral out of control, but I have found that these moments have allowed me to reconnect with the here and now more effectively than almost any other thing in my life. That is because any form of discipline is more of an art than a science. I see it as a difference between eating healthy and having an eating disorder. One is quite acceptable and preferable, but the other can be damaging and counterproductive. You’ve got to realize when the discipline has become legalistic or retroactive, and begin to allow God to speak to you in a fresh way that goes beyond your normal routine.

If you are like me and you get frustrated when life gets out of routine, then look for ways to count these moments as a blessing the next time you get a chance and look for a way to use this moment to reconnect with God in a fresh and exciting way. And if you are not like me and have no discipline whatsoever in your life, I challenge you to find some that allow you to connect with God in a deeper way as well. Wherever you are, remember that discipline is art and not a science.

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