It never ceases to amaze me how God works themes into our lives so that we keep learning the same lessons in various places and ways. This past Sunday the preacher was preaching from Romans 13 and the Christian obligation to submit to authority, since authority is established by God. One of the obvious points of application was obeying the speed limit.
While this may or may not prick your conscience, it sure got me thinking. I’ve always just thought of the speed limit as one of those things that no one really intends for you to follow. This Sunday, however, got me thinking about the type of heart that speeds and drives as aggressively as I have been known to from time to time. It’s not just a matter of obeying the letter of the law–it is a heart of rebellion. It’s a heart that wants to control its own destiny. It’s a heart that thinks where I need to go and when I need to be there is more important than where anyone else is going, or anyone else’s safety. That’s not a heart of submission at all–to God or to eathly authority.
Somehow this seems, in my mind anyway, to tie in to this next thought that a brother challenged me with a couple of days ago. Here is a quote from an article by Henri Nouwen:
But in the spiritual life, the word discipline means “the effort to create some space in which God can act.” Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.
I’ve been working really hard lately at trying to be more disciplined in some little areas of my life, in hopes of reeping fruit in some larger battles within my heart. I’ve been working on a regular bedtime and waketime, developing a few spiritual disciplines that I have let slip, working harder, staying focused, etc. To me that seemed like good discipline; making everything rigid and scheduled, always planning ahead.
But then I read this quote and it got me thinking. What I tend to value is busy-ness and accomplishing tasks, rather than the pursuit and enjoyment of godliness. Often I get so caught up in my Christian chores (devotions, seminary work, church work, etc.) that I forget I’m supposed to be serving and enjoying God. It becomes more about the task than the experience of God, or the glorification of God that the task was intended to accomplish. That’s not discipline. That’s just being a task-driven person.
I suppose these things relate because in both areas I’ve seen God challenging me to slow down. But how do you slow down and not do less? The things that I do are not things that I would like to stop doing (nor is it God-glorifying to quit a course part way through).
Maybe it means I need to take on less. Or maybe it means I need to learn to manage my time better. Maybe it means I need to prioritize more. Whatever it means, I’m grateful that God is patient with me and my painstakingly slow sanctification and my slowness to learn what he desires to teach me.