Do you have a desire to grow spiritually?
Do you find it hard to remain consistent in your attempts to grow?
Have you ever felt like you’re jamming a square peg through a round hole when it comes to practicing spiritual disciplines?
What if I told you the telemarketers have been right all along and that ‘there has got to be a better way’ to connect with God?
Rhythm will bare more fruit than discipline
Have you seen what the word discipline means in the English language today? Let’s ask Mr. Google.
“Training that makes people more willing to obey or more able to control themselves, often in the form of rules, and punishments if these are broken, or the behaviour produced by this training.”
– Cambridge dictionary
Well after that recommendation, sign me up for a spiritual discipline workshop! I can’t wait to grow in my relationship with God and to get punished when I fall short of His standards!
Ok, I’m being very sarcastic but can you see what I’m saying? Discipline in our culture is connected to punishment. So, when we as Christians talk about spiritual disciplines, people hear spiritual punishment or they think that they can change themselves through these disciplines. However, these disciplines are actually a way of trying to keep in step with the spirit, allowing Him to work in us.
The issue is that the fear of punishment kills a relationship, so we have set ourselves up to fail from the get-go if we approach God through discipline.
At this point, I’ve probably started to offend a few people. The people I have offended though, are probably the ones I see eye to eye with most.
Yes, we need to work at our relationship with God!
Yes, it doesn’t happen by accident!
Yes, sometimes we don’t want to work at it but we have to anyway!
The issue comes however when our discipline becomes the focus over our goal of connection. Or when we are unable to adjust our disciplines to our changing needs and circumstances. Or worse when our devotion to God is motivated by fear of punishment, rather than love.
We need to build spiritual rhythms into our life. Rhythm is about flow, rather than ticking boxes. To live a life of finding spiritual rhythm is freeing because you remove failure from the equation. It’s no longer about right or wrong; it’s just about seeking God. If you try something and it doesn’t work, just move on. You aren’t punished for it, in fact you have simply learnt another lesson.
Does a parent punish a child for coloring outside the lines? No! They celebrate the attempt and everything that did land inside the lines. That child then grows in confidence and skill knowing they are loved and accepted by their parent.
3 ways to live in rhythm rather than discipline
# 1 Rhythm is movable
Rhythm, unlike discipline, is movable. I’ll give you an example – I have worked out that my creativity is at it’s highest first thing in the morning. So, I get up at 5am in the morning to spend time with God before work. I use this time primarily to write. I love this part of my day, I am genuinely excited to wake up and write. At night, my time with God is more about winding down, I’ll just sit and contemplate, read a book or pray.
But if I have had a big couple of weeks and am really tired, I am free to have a week where I sleep in for an extra hour and not feel guilty about it. I also don’t put pressure on myself to do the same thing every morning. Rhythm allows us to move with our ever-changing relationship with God.
# 2 listen to your body and your heart
Discipline ignores your surroundings and tries to just get the job done. To live in relationship and rhythm with God though requires self-awareness. We need to stop and listen to the tell signs of fatigue and striving. Spiritual disciplines are about us trying to change our self with a facade of surrender to God. Spiritual rhythm is about making room for God to change you.
# 3 address false belief systems
If what I have been saying has been making you think that you’re currently on the side of discipline not rhythm, can I encourage you to find out why? Everything that we do is driven by a belief either positive or negative.
Some people believe deep down they need to please or appease God, so they pray and read their bible diligently every morning and night to ensure they please Him. Of course, reading the bible is a good thing but a better thing is to read it motivated by love not fear.