God’s been pressing into me lately and I’m coming to face some of my weaknesses. Before this year, I had never considered my lack of discipline a weakness, but rather a mere quirk, a common character flaw even, and quite pedestrian really. But now I realize that it’s something far more insidious. So I wanted to share 3 particular lessons that God has taught me recently on the subject of discipline.
Growing up, I categorized things in two groups: “things that I had to do” — like taking out the garbage, studying, going to church, practicing the piano, and cleaning up; versus “things that I wanted to do” — hang out, perform music, play sports, and have fun. I considered “the things I had to do” as “discipline” — things done in order to avoid trouble with the parents and/or an unpleasant guilt trip. Discipline was an obstacle to the “things that I wanted to do” or “fun” as it was also known.
But in a controlled environment, like high school or a regimented job perhaps, one has “fun” when they can fit it in. When I got to college however, I majored in “the things I wanted to do”. Instead of scheduling play around work, I scheduled work around play. And in three years’ time, I found myself on the outside of school, my parents, and my friends. I was caught in a trap: working three dead-end jobs as a college dropout, a dropping credit score, and one car breakdown from turning myself into a shelter.
Lesson 1: If you don’t do “the things you have to do”, they will limit the “things you want to do”.
An interesting thing happened to me in 1999. I fell in love with hand percussion — namely an instrument called the tabla, an Indian drum. My passion to learn this exotic instrument and the completely different rhythmic paradigm it carried meant that I had to find a teacher, but in a town known for its country music, what luck would I have? A friend of mine, who I had known to be a drummer, actually played the tabla and a number of hand percussion instruments, said he could teach me if I came to his house at 6am on Sunday mornings.
You must know that his house was 45 minutes from where I lived at the time and as you might deduce from what I’ve already told you about my undisciplined life at the time, getting up at 5am to start a lesson at 6am was just ludicrous, crazy talk. But I did it. Why?
Lesson 2: Passion fuels discipline. Things that you love demand that you do them well.
I found this to be true when I met Sunita. I remember writing in my journal one night after a rare dinner during her third year of medical school, “She makes me want to be a better man.” While I was still wandering about in life, meeting her added a new and fresh dimension of discipline to my life.
Which leads right into heart of discipline. Discipline and discipleship are close relatives, not only in the dictionary, but in the ways of God as well. To be a disciple of Jesus, a follower, means that whatever agenda, whatever priorities, and whatever discipline He gives us…well, in short, it’s worth it. Rev 3:19 says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline…” but many times, we misinterpret it, or like me, did not make the connection between discipline and discipleship. In fact, I would go even a step further (on this alliteration kick) and say that discipline is absolutely integral to destiny. What is at stake is not merely an exercise in faithfulness, but the process of becoming what we were meant to be — and that requires discipline.
Lesson 3: Discipline and discipleship are inextricably linked.
Do not serve God because you have to, but because you love to.
And because you love to, there are things that are demanded of you.
And because you follow and pursue those demands, you become a disciple.
The world has enough “believers” — it is time for the world to once again see “disciples”.