discipline in sit-ups and solitude

I believe that there are certain words that we do not like to hear when it comes to particular areas of our life. Whether it is in parenting, being physically active or spiritually alive, discipline is a three syllable word that seems to come across as only negative.

I have been experiencing this in my life as of late. I joined a women’s boot camp that meets at 5:30 in the morning to 6:30 in the morning. In. The. Morning. You might as well say Dawn. That is what it feels like my body is yelling as I am talking myself into waking up, washing my face, putting on running shoes, and eventually, talking myself out of the apartment and to the park.

I joined because I really thought it would be an intentional way of getting into shape for the summer. I can confirm that it has been intentional and I am getting into shape, but I hate it along the way. I curse every jump as I jump rope and every push in my push-up. I’m still waiting for that in-the-mirror moment of utter amazement of how it all paid off. In the wait, though, I know that it is becoming increasingly more important to learn what each of these workouts is doing to each little muscle in my body. Including the muscles I did not know existed until the first week of boot camp. I have to remember that even after this is all over, I will have to continue these on my own to stay in shape and, ultimately, stay healthy.

It is just cruelly painful along the way.

***

Another area of my life that I am experiencing this is my spiritual life. I’m currently co-leading a small group and we are reading through Richard J. Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth”. This is my second time co-leading this specific book, and I can honestly say that it is just as challenging as it was the first time.

When it comes to discipline in my spiritual life, there is a different expectation of myself. This does not come without that same murmuring to myself to “walk out of the door” and to just do it, but it is to find space in my life for prayer, meditation, fasting, study, solitude or celebration. It means to be intentional in those moments with Him, practicing the disciplines, and learning to hear His voice over my voice; His will over my will.

Although I will not have that in-the-mirror moment nor will I feel the ache of my bones as I walk around after a workout, I will feel a deeper silence in life than I had before. I will feel the interior walls of myself crack, fall and be rebuilt to resemble something not so fortified. I will begin to understand the presence of God in a sweeter, more tangible way than I had ever thought possible. 

It is the inner transformation of self.

***

If there is a distinct line that I can draw between the relationship of discipline in my physically active life and my spiritual life, I would say that the two of them do not come without grace.

The discipline of being active can only be balanced if it is sprinkled with grace given to myself through the moments of shaking and sweating. I have to remember that each ache means that it is a muscle getting stronger (unless I accidentally pulled something) and I am on a road to getting into shape. It is not about rigorous routines of killing myself in order to become a babe on the beach. It is about cultivating a healthy mindset of what it means to be physically healthy.

The discipline of being spiritually alive through prayer, meditation, fasting, or solitude can only be fruitful through grace. The moment I let the spiritual disciplines become a religious duty than a pathway to “true liberation”, then I have become Pharisee, believing that these religious duties are what carve a way for me to become holier. That is false. But with grace comes truth. I can receive grace in knowing that God desires to know me in these ways, but not with a manipulated heart.

Overall, it has been interesting to feel the loosing grip of the word discipline. All of the negative connotations that come with this ten-letter word should not override what it means to be disciplined in different areas of my life. I believe the word discipline exists to set us free and not to hinder us – whether I am doing push-ups or sitting in solitude.

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