This is definitely not the type of picture I usually lead my blog with...agreed?
But it's necessary to get you where I want to take you.
Because today I want to ramble about a subject that none of us are too fond of...discipline...especially the self kind.
I hear those rumblings..."Yes! Just the topic I wanted to hear about today! And the monster picture? Right up my alley. Now, let's see if I can find a more edifying blog out there"...click...
I understand. But bear with me...if you want to find out about the monster, you'll need to keep on reading!
So, what do you think of when you hear the word "discipline"? If you're like me, I bet certain things come to mind...as a child I was spanked, sent to my room, put in a corner, or made to sit next to the teacher's desk for an entire day. I won't say how many times I had a bar of soap put into my mouth...now that was the absolute worst!
The truth is, I always knew I needed to be disciplined...I just didn't like it! Even though I was told it was for my own good, I still pouted and complained and got angry. Thankfully those who loved me continued to discipline me, saying they loved me too much to leave me the way I was.
Is it any wonder then, as we become adults, that God continues this process? After all, He loves us passionately and desires that we be conformed to the image of His Son. And discipline is one way He accomplishes this...always because He loves us and knows what is best for us.
But that's not the discipline I want to talk about today, as important as it is. No, it's that other kind of discipline...the hard one. The one where it's not done to us, but where we get to do it to ourselves!
And this is where it gets hard...
Listen to this....
"Moreover, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we yielded to them and respected them for training us. Shall we not much more cheerfully submit to the Father of spirits
and so truly live?
For our earthly fathers disciplined us for only a short period of time and chastised us as seemed proper and good to them; but He disciplines us for our certain good, that we may become sharers in His own holiness."
"For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it, a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness-- in conformity to God's will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God." Hebrews 12:9-11
Discipline has a good and certain purpose from a loving Heavenly Father...that we may become sharers in His holiness. To be like the Father, conformed to the image of the Son. This is His heart's desire and, as His children, it should be ours also.
I say should, because I don't know about you. but my flesh acts like an impudent little child when it is being disciplined! Such screaming and wailing and gnashing of teeth! Let me give you a little example...
I cannot eat anything containing gluten or I get sick. And my body shuts down. And I am very, very, unhappy. You'd think this would be a good reason NOT to want to eat gluten. But I can't tell you how many times I have stood in front of a "real" pizza or driven past my favorite pizzaria and found myself in tears...because I can't have what I want.
Even though I know that what I want is not good for me...at all.
Ridiculous isn't it? But the flesh wants what it wants, whether it's a certain food, a certain thing, or a certain someone. And God knows that's just not the way His son or daughter should live. He came to set us free from the world, the flesh and the Devil.
Last Sunday I saw this in our church bulletin...
"It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
Because you have given us the spirit of discipline, that we may triumph over the flesh, and live no longer for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and rose again,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord."
Submitting to discipline, whether it comes from God or from ourselves, will always bring the joy that comes from obedience. I didn't say it would be easy. Even Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered.
If I really want to triumph over my nasty, strong-willed flesh...and I say I do...
If I'm serious about not living any longer for myself...then I don't have a choice. I need to take this self-discipline thing seriously.
I can choose not to submit to self-discipline. But there will always be a price to pay. Always.
And now, for the monster...
Many years ago I had a dream...it came when I was facing an enormous battle for my soul.
In it was a little monster...kind of a cuddly, cute, want-to-pet-it-kind-of-monster. Until I fed it. And then it grew. I continued to feed it...and it continued to grow. And grow. Until it wasn't cute and cuddly anymore, but a vile, hideous, enormous creature, bent on my destruction. I awoke from a deep sleep, sobbing and in anguish.
I have never forgotten this dream. It has become my "go-to" visual for my battle against the flesh.
I needed to write this blog today. Sometimes I get weary...we all get weary. I wonder if I'm ever going to get it right. If it will ever become easier. If I can keep on keeping on, especially when the world says we don't have to.
As much as I hated it, I am thankful for the monster dream...it helps me to remember that I am always just one choice away from gaining or losing...
Gaining a deeper, more dependent relationship with my Father, resulting in holiness.
Or losing and giving in to the monster of self that does not want me to live, and move, and have my being in Him. And all the blessings that come from a life of obedience.
The verse that keeps coming to mind is "Choose this day whom you will serve..."
God or monster?
No contest. I choose Life.