Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
Discipline follows from being a disciple. It is our effort to do as our Master does. Jesus gave space for the Father to give him what he needed. When you and I are fearful and anxious, we want to take control of our lives... When we follow Jesus we practice a discipline that gives space to let the Father touch us, forgive us and receive us.
Discipline, by perhaps almost as many within the Church as without it, tends to be seen as the opposite of freedom: as restriction, the enforcement of arbitrary rules, the abnegation of free-will, self-determination and honest thought. Chambers Thesaurus lists it as a synonym of punishment, castigation and strictness.
These things may be so in penal and educational contexts, at least in places. A quite different picture emerges when we read Nouwen’s words quoted above. Following Jesus is, at root, our only discipline, and it is a discipline that sets us free from the endless need to control our lives, defend ourselves, secure ourselves – free from the things we fear and that wake us in the night with chest-constricting worry, or keep us from love because we dare not risk the wounds. As Jesus said himself,
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ (Matthew 11.28-30)