The Joy of Discipline

Sometimes you write something down to share it with the world.  Other times you write it down so that it will be available to you when you need it again.  This is the latter of the two.

It was brutally cold and windy when I headed out to Kennesaw Mountain for my run yesterday morning.  At one point I saw a bird flying over the roadway, flapping its wings for all that it was worth, and going nowhere.  It was literally frozen above the road, the headwind so strong that the bird was incapable of forward movement.  You could almost see the strain in the birds head and neck as he tried desperately to overcome the wind.  But he never stopped. The last I saw of that little guy, he was still flapping his wings, frozen in time, doing what birds do.

I have not been so strong.  In the past, when the winds would begin to blow too hard, when the goal seemed unattainable, or when I simply felt that I wasn’t up to the task, I would simply change course.  Head off in a new direction, seeking more favorable winds. I was convinced that I would never reach the goal anyway, but I had the ever present awareness that I was missing the mark by taking the easy way out.  Regret.

The word that I can’t seem to shake in my spirit is discipline.  (Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!)  Much like a root canal, discipline is not something that I have longed to make a part of my everyday life.  Discipline is hard.  Discipline requires effort.  Discipline requires denying myself of things that I want now, so that I can have even better things in the hoped-for future.

But the funny thing is, when I allow discipline to have its place in my life, it makes me happy.  More than that, it increases my joy.  It gives me joy to know that my obedience is honoring and pleasing to God.  It gives me joy to know that I am giving myself my best chance at success and the life that God has created for me.  It gives me joy to know that I am living a life that God can use to influence and shape others.  In all areas of life, Upward, Inward, and Outward, discipline increases joy.

In Galatians, Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which are love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and SELF-CONTROL (or discipline).  Please notice that fruit is singular, not plural.  There is only one fruit, but it manifests itself in many ways.  In my life, it is becoming more and more apparent that these manifestations are related.  I believe that as I allow self-control (a fruit that has always tasted bitter to me), to grow in my life, the other fruit will begin to blossom as well.  My refusal to allow self-control, or discipline, to have its place in my life has worked to slow the appearance of other fruit.

I have always viewed self-control as the Spirit given ability to not do the things that are sinful and harmful to us. But I see that it is also the Spirit given ability to do the things that we must to allow us to grow closer to God and to have healthy and thriving relationships with those around us.  Self-control is DO NOT AND DO.

And so I journal this a reminder to my future self.  When the headwinds are blowing too hard and the effort doesn’t seem worth it, remember that little bird, who persevered in spite of his limitations. 

The winds made him stronger and destination that much more sweet.