This week on Kingdom Bloggers, we have been given an uncomfortable task: assign ourselves an imagined award from Heaven. Like our recent eulogy posts, I would prefer to skip it. But, I can’t. If I commit to something, I do my darndest to fulfill it. And to get it done on time. It’s not sexy. It won’t win me salvation or fame or even popularity.
I am disciplined. Not in every area of my life--I could exercise more; I could manage my finances better (does it count to close my eyes and hold my breath as I click on my bank account online?). But overall, I am disciplined. And committed. Some of you may think, “Yeah, you need to be committed. To an institution.” Like when my hair started falling out senior year in college, from the stress of trying to do too much and to do it well. That’s perfectionism, not discipline. But those of us who are disciplined may tend toward perfectionism, and then foster judgmentalism toward those less perfect...uh...disciplined.
Our culture seems to despise discipline, and tempts us to go for the shortcuts: liposuction, faked credentials, and sleeping pills, over healthy eating habits, studying hard, or employing good sleep hygiene (I am simplifying here: I know there are sleep disorders!). But, good things come from discipline!
Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. Proverbs 10:17, NIV.
Being disciplined or “trained” by our parents, or by those in authority over us (God will use bosses at work who must hold us accountable, or the police when we break the law, or the brave souls in our churches who lovingly confront us when we are pursuing sin instead of God) “isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” Hebrews 12:3-5, The Message.
When we are trained by others in a healthy way, we may acquire patience, tolerance, emotional regulation, respect, manners and good habits. We can then learn to lead more disciplined lives.
I believe discipline and commitment are intertwined. Discipline usually costs us something: pain, free time, sleep, time with loved ones, fun. Those perceived losses may be too much for some of us to absorb, so we skirt around discipline, we avoid it like we avoid “that person” across the street, or we procrastinate. But if we “train through the pain,” I think we will find that we can meet our commitments more easily and often.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Tim. 1:7, NIV.
I have not described myself as “disciplined” until recently. Previously, I described myself as type A, or as the type who needed a certain amount of sleep, or who needed to be somewhere on time. But disciplined? The word as applied to myself did not occur to me, because as a child, I internalized statements like, “Oh, Kerry is the messy one.” If I was told to stop reading and get outside, I thought I was being lazy because I liked to read on a daily basis. I would go to bed early and get up early, and that was because I was a “morning person,” not a disciplined person.
In graduate school (I entered at age 45, with my children in middle school, high school and college), I would exasperate my youngest when she asked to borrow my computer to do homework. I would balk, saying, “I am writing a paper!” Suspicious, she would ask, “When is it due?” Then I would sigh, and hand her the laptop. “Three weeks.” She knows me.
Recently, I began what I will call “a personal improvement project.” Two weeks in, the same daughter said to me, “Mom, you are so disciplined!" Hearing that from my own disciplined child is an award in itself.