Someone once told me that spiritual disciplines are not so much about getting really good at stuff Christians should do, but about practising things that help me in the areas I am weak. This makes a lot of sense to me.
I guess it’s kind of like working out. I really love to run but as I get older I realise that if all I do is run, my body gets out of whack. I need to strengthen myself in the areas I am weak – like my core and upper body – in order to do what I love more effectively and without getting injured.
That’s a helpful way to think about spiritual disciplines. As I take stock of my life, what are the things I am not doing that I need to do? Maybe in this season I’m not finding it easy to be joyful, or thankful. Then the discipline of gratitude and celebration could be what’s needed. Ann Voskamp is well known for helping people to practise daily gratitude so, if this is you, her book might get you off to a good start.
Or maybe I’m not very good at being generous without needing people to know how awesome I am, for example. So I could have a lot of fun practising giving to people without anyone knowing (kind of like Secret Santa in Spring).
On the other hand, what I are things I am doing that I need to stop doing? Right away, I think of how easy it is for me to live distractedly. Life gets full of so much noise, that keeps me from being aware of God through my day and of how He might be speaking to me. I don’t know about you, but I need to practise the discipline of being quiet (and this might take a lot of practise!). Ruth Haley Barton gives some practical tips on how to do this, including some good ideas for groups, in her book Silence and Solitude.
Spiritual disciplines are not just for super-Christians, then. And it’s not as if you become an expert in fasting, say, and that becomes your thing. Put simply, these are habits that help us make space for the Holy Spirit to meet us in particular areas of our lives. And all of this in the context of us growing into the people God made us to be, individually and together.
You might want to take a moment to ask yourself where in your life you need to do something you are not doing; or where you need to stop doing something you are doing. And then ask God to bring to mind a practise that would help you in just the way you need. Share your thoughts with a friend so that you can support one another along the way.
“Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you” (Ephesians 4, 22-24, The Message).