Friday, February 27, 2009


Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating. It is important, however, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God's guidance.

Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God. Solitude requires discipline, worship requires discipline, caring for others requires discipline. They all ask us to set apart a time and a place where God's gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

If there were a theme I'd take for what God seems to be showing me this Lent, it's this.

I have been seeing so clearly recently that not creating boundaries, or else not respecting the boundaries I have created, is the greatest obstacle to keeping open time and space for God. Every time I make allowances for things, make allowances for my own tiredness, my preoccupations, or fail to factor in "protected times" for the prayer part of my Rule, things just swirl in and overwhelm that open time and space.

Perhaps it is just because it is open time and space it is vulnerable - just as the open heart is vulnerable, and yet it is the only door Christ has to enter by.


Sue said...

Yeah. It's just a vacuum, isn't it. Amazes me how things rush in to fill the time and the space up.

But amazes me, out the other side, what happens when you do create the time and the space. It reminds me of creativity and what happens when I sit down to write something or whatever, and the space within doing that sort of balloons out in the other expansive direction. It's very strange :)

I love this quote from Henri Nouwen. We need to hear this, as crazily busy people. Thanks for posting.

Jan said...

I'm currently reading "Jesus, the Teacher Within" by Laurence Freeman. He wrote: "But dedicated spiritual practice eventually makes disciples of us all." (49)

This Lent I am committing to two times of meditation a day and am hoping that God will help me to keep on with this.

Sybil Archibald said...

Beautifully put, especially the last sentence! This post makes discipline seem like an opportunity rather than a burden. Thank you.