I began facing the five realms of God a long, long time ago. I was “told” that the five were obedience, surrender, discipline, acceptance, and grace. Obedience, for me, was, to use a catch phrase, a no-brainer. It just came naturally. And, as I studied it in reality, it became something of a lark. To learn to relax enough to trust the universe/God in allowing my life to be lead. My own catch phrase for the experience became, when you don’t know where you are going, look down. Your feet will always lead the way.
Not that obedience to God was either easy or pleasant, necessarily. But I found, as I would, that getting through the challenges of trusting God was much more than half the fun. (My mother used to say about me that my problem was that I always had to be challenged. I have to say, if God is anything, he’s challenging.)
I learned that the key to obedience is willingness. I learned that it wasn’t getting to the goal that mattered, more it was the willingness to keep one’s head in the strong oncoming wind, and to never give up.
To never give up. That is quite a skill to learn in one’s life.
Surrender is the realm in which we find pain and suffering. An apt topic for Lent, to be sure, but, for me this isn’t the time for it. The key to surrender, defined as when God gives you something that you do not want to accept but have no choice but to accept it, is, blindingly obviously, faith. The gripping onto the mast of your fast sinking boat, knowing that the harder you grip, the more likely you are that you will get out alive.
I guess you could call faith the art of never letting go of God.
Never give up. Never let go.
But then I came to the time wherein I was to study discipline. I was “told” that I knew nothing about discipline. Absolutely nothing.
So, my great organizational skill didn’t count for discipline?
How about my never giving up or letting go?
My ability to play the piano?
Harrumph. It felt like I was assigned the job of sorting out the brown M & Ms from the bowl of M & Ms, but I had no M & Ms to sort. Or money to buy any. Or anywhere to buy them.
How exactly was I to study something for which I had no thread to pull to begin the unraveling of knowledge?
So I started to dig. And dig. And dig. You get the gist. If anything I acquired the discipline (well, more the habit) of scratching my head and feeling like I was digging myself to nowhere.
So I thought I would be logical and look at scripture. And immediately I found the word, disciple.
Ah ha. A breakthrough.
In God, discipline was all about following. A disciple is one who follows. All my ideas of Army recruits or monks praying fell away. For me, the idea of discipline had all to do with hard routines, strict obedience, and exhaustion.
But, yet again, I came across the infinite gentleness of God. The heart of God.
When you are a disciple, you follow your leader the best you can. In God, discipline was about commitment. Staying true. Staying fast.
Never give up. Never let go. Stay true.
Was that it? Because if that was it, that was pretty easy to get.
Commitment was not the key to discipline.
Over the years, I learned that the multitude of concepts that I came up with were never the key to discipline.
And so it went. My tripping over these concepts just made me feel that I would never get through this study. If I didn’t find the key to discipline, how would I ever understand discipline? And wasn’t me understanding the concept the whole point of the study?
CAN I HAVE SOME HELP HERE?
Sometimes I have found that turning my back on something is really what I need to get the best view of it. So I stopped trying so hard. In essence, I gave up. I took a nap.
But, then, one day, falling out of my virtual hammock, I came face-to-face with the essence of discipline: it is love. The attachment between disciple and master. A man’s devotion to God.
We follow because we love. We can remain committed because we love. We can overcome the hurdles of following because we love.
We can do the best we can because we love.
But the concept of love is not that simple. Just the opposite, in fact. There are, I learned, three expressions of love.
1. You love others.
2. You support others in loving one another.
3. You allow others to love you.
Ah. Discipline is not as easy as defining it as completing exercises and getting up before dawn to pray. In fact, discipline may be the hardest thing to perfect.
Because in love, we are weak. It is, I think, where our weakness lies. For some, it is hard to love others. For some, it is hard to witness the love between those around us. And for some, it is hard to have others show us their love for us.
There are always excuses. Good reasons for it. Hatred and anger are sometimes considered more comfortable blankets to wrap our sanity in.
We may be very strong in one expression and completely disabled in another. Jealousy may be the pillow we rest our heads on at night. Shame may be the shield we hold up when someone sends us roses.
So, love, then, is our true discipline. It is the reason we follow Jesus Christ. It is the goal of prayer and meditation, of service and sacrifice, of never giving up and never letting go.
Never give up. Never let go. And love.