How To Become Free From The Lie of Needing Unending Self-Discipline To Make Change...(Part 1)
She makes her list and brings it me. My firstborn, budding daughter. The poor kid is just like me. She's taken the time to organize and plan, proud to show me the check-list of what exercises she will do each day after school. "I'll mark them as I go, Mama. Do you think I should make a list for the entire year?" And as I answer her, I close my eyes for a few seconds, praying again that truth will DROWN OUT the whisper-lie my own heart has believed for so many years, "If you only you were more disciplined Jodi, your life would be so much more productive. If you were highly disciplined you would....eat better. Work out more. Run faster. Be more on top of the grocery shopping list. Have an empty laundry bin and cleaner kitchen floors. Your prayer life would flourish. You'd be able to zip up your skinny jeans. If only you were more disciplined like HER (insert some random woman and her well-behaved kids who I sit behind at mass and seems to have it "all together") you would be a better Mama, a better Christian, a better leader...."
Have you heard it? That same whisper?
Sisters, it's a lie.
A. BIG. FAT. LIE.
And since last year, when I stumbled on the truth and then crouched purposeful each day, gathering small sticks to set fire to that lie, my life has taken a drastic turn. Literally, I have become a new woman. Because that's what standing up and staring a mis-truth in the face does to our soul...Exhaling the lie and inhaling the truth allows us to breathe new life. To burn what is stifling us and build a new life the way God intends us to live...working and ministering and loving authentically...
You see I've believed for years that the most successful and productive people are disciplined people who live disciplined lives. The CEO's, the world leaders, the Mamas of a multitude of kids, the pioneers, the Saints. Surely these people all have this self-discipline thang in their back pocket. In fact, I believed this because I grew up watching it.
My Dad is one of the most self-disciplined people I know.Everything he gets out, he puts away. When we were growing up, his car was always spotless. He worked out every single evening without fail (yes, even when he had a fever or a broken bone.) Got up at the same time. No matter how tired he was or how late the hour became, he never threw his clothes on the floor or left the room with an unmade bed.
Laziness was not an option. NEVER. EVER. NO WAY.
I learned from him.
But here is the kicker. All of these years, as I watched and tried to emulate him, I was actually focusing on the WRONG THING.
I had my Papa mistakenly pegged.
You see, real achievement is not synonymous with a dreaded marathon and boring life of disciplined action. We get fooled into thinking that every action needs to be trained.
We falsely believe that control is the solution in every situation.
And to live like this, especially as a Christ-follower and a Mother with a band of little ones circling her knees, is simply....well, it's completely EXHAUSTING.
And sisters, we got it all mixed-up.
It took the written words and life-learning of a man, Gary Keller, a man whose gifts and life-successes mirror my own Dad's, to pierce my heart and set me free from following the lie that, "if only I had more self-discipline" I could get this crazy life straight. And here is what he teaches. (Even as I get ready to type this I feel freedom radiating out of my fingertips!)
"Success is actually a SHORT RACE - a SPRINT fueled by discipline JUST LONG ENOUGH for
HABIT to kick in and take over." ("The One Thing"pg. 55)
Let me repeat because THIS again. Because Sister-Mamas,
THIS is what has freed me to live differently. To mother differently. To pursue an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ differently.
"Success is actually a SHORT RACE - a SPRINT fueled by discipline JUST LONG ENOUGH for
HABIT to kick in and take over."
How often do we begin a new work-out goal, or household cleaning schedule, or attempt to establish a deeper prayer time or new kiddo-bedtime routine or start a new "clean" way of eating...How often are we all gung-ho for a bit and then... BAM! CRASH! BURN!? Life gets in the way and we tire. We fail miserably.
And then, if you are anything like me, you lay down on the carpet (at least in your mind you do!) and wail,
"If only I had more self-discipline... I wouldn't struggle the way I do!!"
Well sisters, I give you permission to stop that tape in your head and replace it with this life-giving truth.
And what's the truth?
When we want to create change, real change, we do not need UNENDING SELF-DISCIPLINE. Instead, we need to create NEW HABIT. And we need just enough short-term discipline to build that habit.
Yea, it's that simple.
Like Gary Keller says, "That's all the discipline you'll need. As habit becomes part of your life you'll start looking like a disciplined person, but you won't be one. What you will be is someone who has something regularly working for you because you regularly worked on it. You'll be a person who used selected discipline to build a powerful habit."
("The One Thing" pg. 55, 56 )
And the origin of this word "habit"?
It's just another reason why I am feeling more and more at home in the Catholic Church and Her wisdom.
Because those committed to giving their lives to serving this Church are living this out. "Wearing" this truth out. It's in their souls and on their heads.
And when we sit behind her and one of her sisters at mass a few weeks back, my little Lacey leans in and asks, "Why Mama? Why do they put those black things on their heads? They look itchy and hot...it must be hard to cover their hair. Do they do this every day?"
I whisper, "Yes, dear girl. They do!"and later when we cuddle over warm noodles and chocolate chip cookies, I tell her why. There is a purpose, a reason, that each morning a Catholic-sister covers her head. It's not old-school or uncool or embarrassing.
Her habit secures her vocational habit. Her habit reminds her of her commitment- to spend her moments and days and weeks and seasons aimed at serving Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
I pray my children get what blogger and truth-seeker Ann Voskamp has taught me.
"A habit is something that is worn.
A habit is what we wear. A habit is the way we wear our days.
Wear new habits and your life gets a makeover.
Consistently do things at the same time everyday and find yourself a new person.
And even though my girls are just six and eight, I pray they get this now. That ONE daily choice, the decision to have just enough self-discipline to create the habit of carving out daily, quiet time with our Lord will dramatically change their life. Because understanding this as a child, THIS TRUTH, and applying to every aspect of my life would have saved me YEARS OF STRIVING. And what for the days we are tired and overwhelmed? Where do we go when we fall short and need to start over?
We find comfort in the words of Jesus. And we begin again.
Luke 18:1" Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and to not give up."
(Streams in the Dessert, May 7th entry)
"The failure to persevere is the most common problem in prayer and intercession. We begin to pray for something, raising our petitions for a day, a week, or even a month, but then if we have not received a definite answer, we quickly give up and stop praying for it altogether. This is a mistake with deadly consequences and is simply a trap when we begin many things but never see them completed. It leads to ruin in everyday life. People who get into the habit of starting without ever finishing form the habit of failure. And those who begin praying about something without every praying it through to a successful conclusion form the same habit in prayer. Giving up is admitting failure and defeat. Defeat then leads to discouragement and doubt in the power of prayer, and that is fatal to the success of a person's prayer life."
We stay the course. Grateful for the newness of today.
"And then, at the end of the day, to be done with the day because you’ve done what you could do. The accomplishment of a day isn’t so much about accomplishing goals but abiding in God. True, the day may have stumbled and fallen, but in Christ we are the saved. Tomorrow, it will descend like a fresh dew, a fresh snow, and it will come again — Fresh grace all over again."
And so today my dear sisters, what habit is God tugging on you to begin? Fall at His feet and ask Him. And then lean into Him today. Jesus, and only Jesus, is able to walk alongside of you and give you just enough self-discipline to create a new habit today, A habit that can change your life....