I remember feeling a little bit disappointed after I got baptized at age 13. For one, it was like a birthday. I didn’t feel any different afterwards, even though I had expected too. Secondly, I didn’t feel like I knew what I was supposed to do next. I had felt very strongly that God wanted me to be baptized. I expected after I did that that I would feel as strongly about something else that God wanted me to do. Honestly, I didn’t.
I wanted to “grow in my faith”, but I didn’t really know how. Whenever that was talked about in youth group or other church events, what was mentioned was praying, reading your Bible, and going to church. I probably could have been doing better on the prayer front (I think that’s something you can always do more of), but I was trying. I was reading my Bible on a regular basis. I was in church every time the doors were open. However, I still felt like I was missing something.
It was in college that I was first introduced to the spiritual disciplines. Technically, praying, reading your Bible, and going to church are all spiritual disciplines, but it was in college I learned that there were more things you could do to grow your faith. I came from a very low-key church background. I had never heard spiritual disciplines talked about before (at least not in those terms). All this was new to me, but I was sure it would be life changing.
What Are Spiritual Disciplines?
In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster describes spiritual disciplines as practices that “call us to move beyond the surface living into the depths.” The purpose of these practices is “liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.” Spiritual disciplines are practices that help, in the words of Henri Nouwen, “create some space in which God can act.” They help us to slow down, be still, and listen for God’s still, small voice in the midst of our loud world. They teach us how die to ourselves and live for Christ. These practices don’t earn us any favors in God’s eyes (and they definitely don’t earn you salvation or anything of that nature), but they do provide opportunities to connect with God on a deeper level if that’s something you’re searching for.
Some of these practices are to be done alone. Things like mediation, silence, and solitude are usually individual pursuits. Others like prayer, fasting, study, and worship can be done alone or with others. Some of the disciplines are best done corporately: confession, celebration, service. While some might be individual pursuits and others might be done with family, friends, or a church body, all of these practices (and there are even more than I’ve listed here) make space in our lives for God to enter in, speak to us, and use us as he sees fit.
Reality Is Always Harder
I would like to say that after college, I developed a routine of engaging in various spiritual disciplines, but I really didn’t. I had the knowledge. I even taught about them for a summer. However, I never really integrated them into my life in a consistent way. Needless to say, I didn’t really get much benefit from them.
Honestly, it’s only been in the last year or two since I’ve been married that I’ve been consistent with the few that I have incorporated into my life. It’s not that being married magically made me into a better person. The benefit of marriage is another person to keep you accountable. Zach and I do morning devotions together (almost) every morning during the week. That includes a time of Scripture reading and prayer. As I’ve mentioned in other places, this past year I’ve started incorporating meditation into my morning routine as well. While I do that on my own, it’s a part of the routine that I’ve developed based on our routine as a family.
I feel like I’ve improved in my practice of some of the disciplines. Still, there are other disciplines that I still don’t do a great job at. I want to be better at fasting, but I like food too much. I’m often tempted to skip that one, even when I’ve decided/committed to. There are other types of meditation and prayer that I would like to incorporate into my life, but life just gets busy. It’s not that the disciplines are necessarily hard, it’s just that they take (surprise) discipline, and sometimes it’s hard to stick with something in the midst of a busy life.
Do You Want to Join Me in the Journey?
That’s why I’m inviting you to join me as I try to grow in my own practice of some of these disciplines. I’d like you to be a part of my Six Week Spiritual Growth Journey, starting September 12th. Each Tuesday for six weeks, I’ll be Live on Facebook talking about one of the disciplines. Each week I’ll focus on one particular discipline, going over some Scripture about that practice, telling about my personal experience with that discipline, and giving practical how to’s on how to actually go about doing it. I’ll also try to keep you accountable to putting it into practice by giving you a challenge each week (that I’ll also be doing). If you can’t join on Facebook or if you want the Reader’s Digest version (with some additional resources), I’ll be sending out a summary after each Live session to those on my email list. If you haven’t signed up yet, do it now so you can be a part of this unique experience.
Are the disciplines always fun? No. Sometimes they are a great experience and other times they seem like work. That’s to be expected though. It’s true of any other discipline (like exercising or eating healthy) so we should expect the same thing in the spiritual realm. The author of the book of Hebrews warns us about this too. He (or she) writes in Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” If you want that “harvest of righteousness and peace”, join me for this journey. Together, we can encourage one another to stick with it, put new habits into place, and grow in our relationship with God.
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