Today, I will join my colleagues Paul Jensen and Chuck Miller in leading a training/retreat day for the international board and key staff of Open Doors International. We have developed a five-year plan to help them be intentional about putting spiritual transformation at the heart of all they do as a minister to the persecuted church around the world.
In the afternoon, I will share a presentation titled “Rhythm of Life.” A rhythm (or, classically, “rule”) of life is defined by Marjorie Thompson:
“A rule of life is a pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness. When we speak of patterns in our life, we mean attitudes, behaviors, or elements that are routine, repeated, regular. Indeed, the Latin tern for ‘rule’ is regula, from which our words regular and regulate derive.” (Marjorie Thompson. Soul Feast. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995, p. 138.
In my preparations, I came across this sage counsel from Elton Trueblood on spiritual discipline and true freedom:
“We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom, to the effect that we are most free when we are bound. But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matters is the character of our binding. The one who would like to be an athlete, but who is unwilling to discipline his body by regular exercise and by abstinence, is not free to excel on the field or the track. His failure to train rigorously and to live abstemiously denies him the freedom to go over the bar at the desired height, or to run with the desired speed and endurance. With one concerted voice the giants of the devotional life apply the same principle to the whole of life with the dictum: Discipline is the price of freedom.” (Elton Trueblood. The New Man for Our Time. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1970, p. 69.)
“I am most free when I am most bound. Discipline is the price of freedom.” This is a truth that I haven’t always embraced. I learned it earlier this year as I persisted in daily exercise, losing many excess pounds and gaining endurance, stamina and strength. I was free to cycle 375 miles over five days because I let myself be bound to such daily practice. In the weeks since that ride, I have instead chosen freedom from such daily practices. The fruit has been a diminishing of the freedom that greater energy and resilience have given me.
Why do I become lax in discipline? Somewhere in my thinking are these ideas: “I need a break from discipline. I want to be free of these restrictions. I just need a breather.” Such false freedom has actually reduced the life-affirming freedom I had been enjoying. A relaxing of discipline has diminished me rather than developed me. I don’t have something good to show for my false leisure. Even Sabbath takes discipline. The discipline of saying “No” to the impulse to accomplish something is a hard one, but that will do good work in my body, my mind, my heart and my soul.
I am not to be bound in slavery to without-God passions in my life, but bound in love to Christ Who desires my full attention and devotion. Keeping my gaze fixed on Him is the most fruitful discipline I could possibly practice. How will this grow in me? How will it grow in you?
Buy a copy of Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life
or The New Man for Our Time on Amazon.com