It sounds more formal than it actually is, this notion of the "spiritual disciplines." To most Christians, this sounds like the more secular concepts of "diet" or "exercise," and it's often met with a great big groan. It sounds restrictive. It sounds hard. Who has the time to monitor this kind of thing in their life? Who has the time to even get started? Who has the energy to keep it going?
It's the kind of thing that most of us start and stop a thousand times over our spiritual journey. It's an undertaking that we try and fail, then a few years later, try and fail again. We continually criticize ourselves - and our faith - because we just "can't" get it "right." It frustrates us. It makes us feel defeated. It keeps pounding us into the ground because at the very moments that we most seem to need our faith, we don't seem to know how to access it.
I have even heard Christians say, "Oh, no, I don't read the Bible because I can't understand it" or "Nah, I don't pray; I don't know how to pray." Even in the age of digital music and streaming services, we have Christians among us who say that they don't know what to listen to or how to find it. And heaven forbid we suggest implementing a Sabbath. A whole day of rest? In a 24/7 world?
It just seems the spiritual disciplines require more from us than we have to give. Which leaves a lot of Christians questioning, why would God do this to us?
We don't have the time. We don't have the energy. After a long day of clothing, feeding, driving, entertaining, and supporting a family and our children, of managing our responsibilities in the office, of taking care of the house, of laundry and dishes and bathtimes and, if we're lucky, a few minutes to catch tomorrow's weather, where on earth are we supposed to find the time or the energy to do one more thing? Even one more thing that God "requires" of us?
There are those among us who say, triumphantly, that they had "a little extra time" this week and so sat down to read their Bible. And we applaud them. Gosh, I wish I had a little extra time for reading my Bible. I wish I could get even five minutes to do the things that I want to do.
We spend much of our spiritual journey apologizing to God, promising to do better, making agreements about how we'll spend our time when we actually get some. And we claim that this is a holy position that we've taken.
We have so convinced ourselves that the spiritual disciplines are hard, that they require 100% of our focus and attention if we are ever to do them right, that we have to be able to be fully invested in them at any given moment if they're going to "work" or be fruitful or whatever it is that we think they're supposed to be for us, that we have determined without even an ounce of guilt that if we're not all in, it's better to be all out. That if we can't give 100% right now, it's better to give 0. That somehow, we are honoring God by not even trying.
Read that again, because heaven forbid we say it out loud - too many of us think that we're honoring God by not even trying to live holy lives because we "can't" do it perfectly. Because we "can't" do it wholly. Because we're not 100% in, God wants us out. That He likes it when we do this.
But what if that's not true? (C'mon - you know it's not.) What if none of that is true? What if this isn't what the spiritual disciplines are all about? What if it's not like diet and exercise at all? What if it doesn't take some massive feat of dedication or strength or resolve?
What if living the disciplined spiritual life isn't hard?
It's not. We're the ones who make it hard. But we don't have to.
This week, let's talk about it.