The Danger of Discipline

As the middle of the year draws closer, I’ve been reflecting on my goals and my focus for the year. This year I decided to make goals with a focus on one “theme word” – discipline.

And it has turned out to be a highly relevant word for me this year.

When each of my babies have turned one, I’ve found life enters a new stage. A more predictable, rhythmic stage.

The other day I got house work done for about 20 minutes while T crawled around the house, finding things to play with.

That is quite a feat, let me tell you! And it’s quite different to the newborn stage, where you can’t really put them down and every minute is sucked into a vortex of activity.

I mean, a mobile baby brings a different kind of busy. I’m cleaning up more messes, for example.

The other day I sent my husband this picture (of his side of the bed), with the message “This was the cost of doing the dishes today”:

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Mmm, tasty bin tissues – good for the immune system, right?

(I did then clean it up, but I often like to share little things from my day with my husband while he is at work – the good, the bad and the hilarious!)

But as I enter this season of having a baby who is more able to entertain himself for little chunks of time, it is a season that requires greater discipline because there is a temptation to slack off.

And what I am finding as I work to apply discipline across the various areas of my life is that discipline breeds discipline. It is addictive.

I guess you could call it “habit-forming”, which in the early stages requires repetition and consistency.

I’m particularly enjoying the fruits of applying discipline to my eating habits and exercise. The result is that I have more energy, I feel good and I am actually looking forward to exercising.

Some days I have to push myself to make it happen, or pull myself away from bad food choices (that’s the discipline part). But most days, it’s not a hard choice. The more I eat healthy food, the more my body craves it. The more I exercise, the more my body wants to move.

I find this to be the case across the other areas of my life where I am becoming more disciplined as well.

But then the thoughts start to creep in… “Hey, I’m really nailing this!”, “Wow, I’m really good at this discipline thing!” or the more subtle, “My hard work is starting to pay off.”

The problem with these thoughts is that they are rooted in pride.

The more my thoughts turn towards how well I am doing, the more they turn away from how dependent I am on God’s grace.

You might think, “Well, if you’re doing well on your own, why can’t you acknowledge that? Maybe that means you aren’t dependent on God’s grace?”

And that might be true for a while. I might have a good run in being disciplined and making good choices, and seeing results, but ultimately my own strength and personal resolve will fail.

It would be like saying, “Wow, that’s a beautiful rose! It’s doing such a great job of growing and looking lovely!” while ignoring the whole bush, roots, soil and sun that all worked to make the rose beautiful.

My dependence on God is the reality. My personal discipline is the result.

To believe that I can get the result of discipline without the reality that I am dependent on God is to believe a lie.

Ultimately, this is the danger of discipline – that we set up good habits for ourselves and it fools us into thinking that we can achieve anything in our own strength, that we are pretty good people and we don’t really need God.

Colossians 2:20-23 warns about these dangers:

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

 

I am speaking here about self-discipline, of course. But I think this also applies to disciplining our kids.

Of course kids need to be taught obedience and morals.

But we need to be so careful that in teaching them to do what is right and flee from what is wrong, we don’t set them up to pridefully think they are good people.

I was raised in a loving Christian family, and I was taught how to obey God from a very young age. But unfortunately, this also grew a heart of pride in me.

Even when I copped grief from other kids at school and I didn’t quite fit in, I held onto this attitude that at least I was doing the right thing.

And don’t get me wrong – it’s good to love doing what is right!

Psalm 119:97 says:

Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.

But following God’s law won’t save you.

And when I was a child, I never really had a sense that I needed to be saved. I knew the rules. I followed the rules. And I thought that made everything okay.

(I mean, I knew Jesus had saved me – I just didn’t think I really needed it.)

It wasn’t until some events in my late teens that I truly realised how much I needed grace, and that I really couldn’t make it to heaven on my own (I might tell you the long story of that another day!).

This is an ongoing struggle for me. The struggle of falling back into rule-following and a prideful heart.

So even as I pursue greater discipline in my life, I need to be ever-mindful that it is only through God’s grace that I can make lasting changes. And it is only through God’s grace that I am saved.

It’s a change in posture from a standing tall, “you go girl” kind of self-discipline to a kneeling down, “God, please change my heart” kind of self-discipline.

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Our olive harvest the other day.

 

 

 

In the Twilight of the Year

Twilight has long been my favourite time of day.

When my husband and I were dating, we used to go for long walks around the neighbourhood on warm summer evenings, after the sun had set but the light still lingered. We would just talk and hold hands and explore.

Now, twilight is often my time for gathering things back together. It might be when B has the kids in the bath and I’ve put the baby to bed. Or sometimes after all the kids have been tucked in for an early night.

I wander around the house picking up the toys, sweeping up the crumbs, wiping up the messes and scraping off the plates. The slow and steady work of bringing order to the chaos.

The next day always seems to start off more smoothly when I take this time to wrap up one day’s activities and prepare for the next.

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And so here we are now, in the twilight of the year.

The sun has set on 2016, but the light lingers for a few more weeks.

I look back on all that has happened this year – all the messes we made, and the fun that was had, and the moments I wasn’t sure how I would make it out alive – and I just want to spend some time now, carefully gathering my thoughts and putting everything back in order.

I want to take the time to properly reflect on 2016 so that I’m ready for 2017.

 

The Highlight:

Definitely the birth of our third child! It’s always amazing welcoming a new little person into the family, and watching everyone grow and shift and adjust until you suddenly can’t remember what the family was like without them.

A bit of family trivia for you – we’ve now had a baby in each house we’ve lived in since being married!
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The Lowlight:

For sure the hardest part of this year was those 3 or so winter months where at least one of us was sick at all times, and when baby T’s feeding issues had come to a head.

He was feeding every hour or so throughout the day and yet his weight gain was slowing. I started working with a lactation consultant who diagnosed him with tongue and upper lip tie. We had those cut, but things didn’t immediately improve. In fact, because of all the problems and a drop in hormones, my milk supply took a hit. So I had to go on medication for that and then I started him on solids when he was 4.5 months.

We persisted and our family eventually got healthy again and here we are, with a happy little 8 month old boy who brings immense joy to our family! (But if I never go through another period like that, I will be glad! And yet… )

 

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Where did I grow the most?

Through everything that has happened this year, my faith in God has grown so much.

And I really resonate with this verse:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

I know without a doubt that the faith I have (and had this year) in God – the way that I was able to trust Him even when things were hard – was totally not from myself. It was truly a gift from God that I was able to keep believing in Him through all the pain and stress.

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Where do I need to improve?

I really need to grow in patience. I find myself getting frustrated with the kids (and even my husband) rather easily lately.

This is one area in my heart that the Lord really needs to take the pruning shears to.

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If you’ve read my blog for long, you’ll know I’m pretty big on planning and lists and the like.

So the interesting thing to me, as I look back on this year is that none of the “big things” were things I had planned or foreseen.

I’m not going to stop planning, but for me it is a helpful reminder that I am not in control, and that God has a plan for my life beyond what I can see.

 

How about you – do you like to reflect on the year that has been? What thoughts and events are you gathering back together in the twilight of this year?