Saturday, January 24, 2009

Celebration of Discipline

By Kevin

I'm done! Just finished up our development class here in Thailand. Now I'm a bit more free to write.

The last couple weeks of class have been really good. I am always challenged by our grad classes. Unfortunately, I also discovered that I won't be completely done next summer, like I'd hoped: I'll have one more session of Thailand classes before earning my degree.

I know Ruth wrote on this subject already, but it bears repeating. I too have been thinking about the idea of simplifying and scheduling “buffer zones” and margins into life so that I can be more intentional about rest and things other than just work. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that my effectiveness isn’t measured by how much I do.In other words, I need to be disciplined about times of silence and if I’m going to be effective.

Again and again in one class, we reverberated the need to “Be still and know that I am God,” which too often we disconnect from the rest of the verse: “I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” This is the reason for silence. It prepares us, even enables us, to be able to exalt Him.

A quote Dr. Gallagher shared from Deitrich Bonhoeffer really hit home: “We’re so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next…in order not to have to look at ourselves in the mirror." For some reason, silence terrifies us. Maybe it's because we come from a driven, capitalistic country, but we feel like we need to be doing something to occupy every minute of our day. Spending time that isn’t “accomplishing” something seems counterproductive to us. How often we forget that life is about relationship. Just like a father or mother wants to spend time with their child, and hear about their day, the Father wants the same from us. But he also wants us to listen. Without silence, it’s hard to listen.

I feel like believers (myself included) have too often bought into the Western idea that we need to be busy ALL THE TIME. The capitalistic idea that time is money has invaded the way we approach our service. We buy into the idea that we’d “rather burn out than rust out,” but it’s not healthy. If we’re not busy all the time until we’re exhausted, somehow, we see ourselves as failing. But it’s a lie. And it’s watering down our effectiveness because usually the result is we are disconnected from the source of life. No wonder the census says some 77 percent of Americans identify themselves as believers, but, when Barna asks people about their actual beliefs, only 8 percent of Americans fit the criteria most would hold as essentials for true faith.

I'm thinking about how many times someone asked "How are you?" and my instinctive answer was "I'm busy, how are you?" What message does that communicate? Then I compare my life to the son's. I'm certainly not busier than him.

It’s hitting me that I too easily pass over all the times Jesus retreated to spend time with the Father. I miss the times he even told his disciples to come with him to rest, while he was in the midst of serving people, even. We ignore the father restoring Elijah in the cave before giving him his next task.

But he knew better than we do. He knew, as Gallagher puts it, that being comes before doing. Even he had to be still and know God for God to be exalted through him.

We also forget history. “When we read the life of the saints, we are struck by a certain large leisure which went hand in hand with a remarkable effectiveness. They were never hurried; they did comparatively few things, and these not necessarily striking or important; and they troubled very little about their influence. Yet they always seemed to hit the mark; every bit of their life told; their simplest actions had a distinction, an exquisiteness which suggested the artist.” – Bridget Herman.

I'm speaking to myself here: I need more discipline. I need more rest.

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