Yikes. You know it’s been too long since you’ve blogged when you can’t remember your dadgum password. My profile does not remember me, either. The whole thing is moving slowly. For that matter, so am I.
Discipline. What a gross word. Free association…go! I’m betting the first words that come into your head are things like spanking, grounding, cleaning, dread, worry, fear, denial, deprivation. Punishment. Not fun, any of it. For the parent or the child, the kid or the grown-up.
If you thought discipline was no fun as a kid, you had no idea what you were in for as a grown-up. As an adult you have to discipline YOURSELF, every day, in addition to all the hard work it takes to just be you. And if you’ve got kids around (yours or someone else’s) and you have to discipline them too…well, i need a nap just thinking about it.
So I had always thought of Lent–the season of preparation before Easter– as a time to deny yourself, because you are sinful and need to be punished. Never meant much to me. I figured, God made me, I’m not so bad…plus, I work awfully hard at being ok most of the time. I don’t need added pressure just because it’s spring time.
THen someone suggested to me that a Lent discipline can be something you ADD to your life, rather than something you take away, and that has made all the difference in my spiritual approach. A discipline can be a daily prayer time, weekly worship, a study, intentional time with your family; it can even be just a few moments of peace and quite before you start your day, or as you finish it.
Anything worth having takes discipline–the practice of holding yourself accountable to a time, a place, a standard or a person. Think about it. Absolutely anything worth having demands that you carve out some intentional time and space for the pursuit of it. Real relationships. Healthy, well-adjusted children. Physical health. Great talent. The 401K you hope will be in good shape when you retire. The blog you hope people will actually read…Discipline is what gets you to the mountaintop, every time. It’s a daily seeking, working, sometimes even striving against all else around you, to find something worthwhile and meaningful for yourself. And it is always worth doing, because, really, what else is?
This journey of discipline and simplicity is not just a Christian endeavor; it is a universal concept, mirrored in the Muslim season of Ramadan. Periods of fasting and simplicity also appear in Buddism, Sikhism, Judaism, and nearly every other world religion. They reflect a human desire to live in the presence of the holy, even if the journey requires some discomfort.
Since moving to the desert, I have come to “get” Lent even more. I’ve even begun giving things up again. Because I understand the need for simplicity in the seeking of something real and holy. The impossibility of watching hours of t.v., spending days shopping, eating terrible food and burning quickly through every paycheck, and then hoping to find something meaningful underneath it all. The barren, wilderness place where we live is suddenly alive and green. The landscape itself reminds us that something within us must be empty and open–waiting–if we want new life to spring forth there. In this season, we seek the discipline to find that great empty, or maybe even create it for the first time. It takes work, it takes limits, and yes, sometimes a little discomfort. But then again, doesn’t eveything that’s worth having?
What is worth having to you? Is it worth the climb?