Our new Sunday School class is on the spiritual disciplines. Great teacher. Great, and for me very needed, subject. But I already find myself in avoidance, making excuses.
I am not disciplined in these areas. Partly it’s just human laziness, of course. There’s an element of having had folk in my life who made me feel like an evil person because I hadn't cloned their habits. Some of it’s irrational fear of drawing too close to Him – maybe He is waiting for me so He can shoot me down, chew me out, tell me how really a worm I am.
All of it’s just excuses. And part of me wants to embrace this class and maybe find ways to void those excuses. And part of me is afraid to find more rules and instructions and methods of organization that I can’t possibly follow, so that I will feel once again a miserable failure.
Thinking on all this last night, I was struck with the realization that it’s not just “discipline” – making myself do certain things at certain times in certain ways and amounts. But it’s desire – desire not for the disciplines but for the One the disciplines help us to know. All the prayer and Bible reading and fellowship and sermon-listening in the world mean nothing if done for their own sakes. (And I know they can be so done.)
And there is the heart of my reluctance and failure in the disciplines. For all my reliance on relationship, I do not rely on relationship with Him. Oh, I rely on Him. But I do not rely on relationship with Him. I do not love Him and long for Him as I do for my earthly father. And I want to, and I am afraid to, and I am so lazy . . .
And here’s another Scott Cairns poem that somehow speaks to this frustration and failure in me and comforts me. The title is, I understand, a Greek word for “peace.”
Stillness occurs with the shedding of thoughts.
– St. John Klimakos
Of course the mind is more often a roar,
within whose din one is hard pressed to hear
so much as a single word clearly. Prayer?
Not likely. Unless you concede the blur
of confused, compelled, competing desire
the mind brings forth in the posture of prayer.
So, I found myself typically torn,
if lately delivered, brow to the floor,
pressing as far as I could into prayer,
pressing beneath or beyond the roar
that had so long served only to wear
away all good intentions, baffling prayer.
Polished hardwood proves its own kind of mirror,
revealing little, but bringing one near
the margin where one hopes to find prayer –
though even one’s weeping is mostly obscured
by the very fact and effect of one’s tears,
which, for the time being, must serve.