“Discipline is supposed to serve you; you’re not supposed to serve the discipline.” She wasn’t talking to me but I heard and remembered.
Were we halfway through the summer when those words sank into my heart? I held on to them the rest of the weeks we remained at camp. Discipline is supposed to serve you. I could list the ways I discovered that this summer.
One day in May I finally decided that if I sat down every day for a long time then I could finish a big writing project. I counted out the days and set a count-down widget on my phone to remind me time was ticking. There are 152 of 258 days left until my self-imposed deadline. The goal I set for myself is almost met. I’m in awe, and a bit afraid of my own progress, and eager to set a new goal. I’ve always been nervous about writing, but discipline served the ball back into Fear’s court. I’ve written a lot this summer, with gratitude to discipline.
I was handed a Bible study booklet in the last week of May to begin prepping for the study I would lead for four of the counselors. The nine steps of Bible study that were laid out in the beginning of the book startled me. I didn’t know how to begin – it had been so long since I studied scripture that way. So I broke the study down into chunks. I made it look manageable and I sat down to study every morning or afternoon while Erik napped. I learned so much about God, about scripture and about study this summer. A summer of discipline has gotten me excited to study God and his word more.
I have had to be disciplined with my parenting too. It’s incredibly self-sacrificing to hand little Erik a spoon when I’m giving him a bowl of oatmeal or Greek yogurt and let him try to shovel a few bites into his mouth. Things are a lot less messy when I just feed him. But will he ever learn that way? It’s important to me to teach him the things he needs to live life well, love God well. It’s taken a lot of discipline to consistently choose the messy education experience instead of the tidy spoon-feeding.
I don’t really like discipline. That’s not the point of this post. But when I’m not in the thick of parenting I usually have enough perspective to reframe it. “Step by step, one travels far,” J. R. R. Tolkien says. I think discipline is applicable to more than just the hard things that challenge you at the core of who you want to be. There’s other things – like looking for small beautiful moments in you day or remembering to write down what you’re grateful for. Little by little, one unpacks every box after moving to a new home, or learns to love healthier foods. Little by little the autumn colors roll down the mountains each October. Maybe the longer we practice discipline the more we discover that it’s pure gold.
I’m in the thick of everything right now – the parenting, the writing, the unpacking, the study. The fall colors. Don’t think I’m advising back over my shoulder from the other side. I’m stuck hating the act of discipline right alongside you (trust me.) I’ve just seen the outcome before and I’m willing to work for that.
There’s a song called Keep On Keeping On by Colony House that tends to fall flat to my ears in the middle of my best seasons. When life is easy, I can’t listen. There’s no real keeping on to do. It’s in the mirey middle sections of trying to do things that won’t be finished for weeks or years that I have to have that anthem running through my head and heart.
So, friend, keep on keeping on. You’ll get there. Remember, “Little by little, one travels far.”