Emily Freeman, on her blog Chatting at the Sky, is discovering a lot about the nuances of spiritual disciplines.
The past several years have been a re-entry of sorts into the world of the spiritual disciplines. It’s different now – kinder, gentler, tender, and more free. My definitions have changed as has (I hope) my demeanor.
I now understand the fundamental truth beneath the spiritual disciplines, that “if a discipline is not producing freedom in me, it’s probably the wrong thing for me to be doing” (John Ortberg).
…Practicing a spiritual discipline is not about trying to earn something, prove something, or win.
Practicing a spiritual discipline is more about receiving power to live in the kingdom. It’s about training my mind and my will to practice what my heart deeply believes. It’s about knowing that each moment is packed with grace but sometimes I need practice to see it.
It’s about becoming the person I already am in Christ.
Many examples of spiritual disciplines can be found at Crosswalk.com.
Paul Tautges, in The Discipline of Devotion, discusses meditation, confession, and adoration as facets of devotion to God, as written about by R. Kent Hughes.
Does adoration lead to anything else? Yes---the presentation of our bodies---our entire lives---in an ultimate act of worship. This is how Isaiah capped his great experience with God: ‘Here am I. Send me!’ (Isaiah 6:8). Similarly, after the great Apostle Paul sings in worshipful doxology---‘For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen’ (Romans 11:36), he immediately calls us to submission (Romans 12:1).
Those might align with our idea of what spiritual disciplines look like. But Freeman says that anything can be a spiritual discipline for us, “when we recognize the presence of God with us in it.” For example, she recently did a thorough purging of her closet after realizing that she was holding onto and wearing some clothes that didn’t fit her and made her uncomfortable.
In those few moments in my bedroom, I was profoundly aware of the kind presence of Christ, that he doesn’t stop being relevant just because I’m cleaning out my closet. And while I still value taking care of my body and engage in other practices to maintain my health, I also want to be honest about my own expectations of myself and be careful not to compare my health to someone else’s.
I struggled with feeling oddly guilty about making something as trivial as getting rid of pants that are too tight into a spiritual practice. But then I remembered how life with Christ is about being a whole person, not pieced out into important parts and non-important parts.
If you know you need to implement some more practical disciplines to fill out your day, Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre have recommendations in Joy of the Disciplined Woman. However, more importantly, they caution:
Practices alone, though a means of grace, do not transform us. My life is not ultimately changed by becoming more disciplined or getting more organized. Rather, I am changed as I grasp the truth of justification, depend on the Lord throughout the day, and do whatever I do for His glory. Hence, anytime we seek to implement a new practice, we must always revisit these biblical truths; otherwise, our practices will become new forms of legalism.
What tradition or non-traditional spiritual disciplines have you fostered lately? Leave a note in the comments!
Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor at Crosswalk.com
Publication date: January 21, 2015