I was reading in my devotional book a while ago and I came across this quote:
When we begin to ask what the conditions of inner renewal are, we receive essentially the same answers from nearly all of those whom we have most reason to respect. One major answer is the emphasis upon discipline. In the conduct of one’s own life it is soon obvious, as many have learned the hard way, that empty freedom is a snare and a delusion. In following what comes naturally or easily, life simply ends in confusion, and in consequent disaster. Without the discipline of time, we spoil the next day the night before, and without the discipline of prayer, we are likely to end by having practically no experience of the divine-human encounter. However compassionate we may be with others, we dare not be soft or indulgent with ourselves. Excellence comes at a price, and one of the major prices is that of inner control.
We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom, to the effect that we are most free when we are bound. But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matters i the character of our binding. The one who would like to be an athlete, but who is unwilling to discipline his body by regular exercise and by abstinence, is not free to excel on the field or the track. His failure to train rigorously and to live abstemiously denies him the freedom to go over the bar at the desired height, or to run with the desired speed and endurance. With one concerted voice the giants of the devotional life apply the same principle to the whole of life with the dictum: Discipline is the price of freedom.
– From The New Man for Our Time by Elton Trueblood
Ever since I read that passage months ago, that last line has been ringing in my heart and head.
Discipline is the price of freedom.
It has been my rallying cry and my motivating thought on numerous occasions since then. Especially in the last several weeks.
I’ve recently started a new fitness routine in the mornings. Before this I never was a morning person. There are days that I am STILL not a morning person. But when those thoughts of laziness or complacency creep in I drive them back with “Discipline is the price of freedom.”
I have also started a new schedule for my week in an attempt to better utilize my time and energy and match them up with the tasks my life requires of me. It has not been easy but I have also realized that “being my own boss” in the sense that I am a senior pastor in charge of my own schedule has revealed some weaknesses in my self-discipline. So now I am more aware of those moments of weakness and I answer with a refrain of “Discipline is the price of freedom.”
As I am sure you have noticed, I have started posting with regularity as opposed to the intermittent sparks every so often that I used to. Kind of. This is because I have started to get serious about writing and make time for it and put it into my schedule. Then I write, letting nothing stop me or interrupt me. And when those temptations DO come around, I resist with “Discipline is the price of freedom.”
In case you couldn’t tell. I really think Trueblood is on to something here. We are often tempted in our lives with the idea of absolute freedom. We think, “If only I could do things how I wanted to do them, when I wanted to do them, life would be so much better.” And on occasion we might get that wish, whether it is a surprise day off of work or a project at the office where we are given control to set the pace and agenda.
It is at times like these we are confronted with just how much or how little self-discipline we have.
If we are not ready for these kinds of moments or seasons, they will pass us by and we will be no better because of them. Now I’m not saying that all of life is measured by productivity or how much you accomplish or how fast you accomplish it. There is much more to life than that.
But if you have a dream you are chasing or a job that you want or a relationship you desperately want to work, then life is not going to slow down and wait for you to get your act together and then press the PLAY button again.
Instead we have to be disciplined with our freedom, with our lives, in order to achieve that which we deem most important.
I am in the trenches of this lesson and I have better days and worse days, good weeks and bad weeks. If you ask me what I think I am called to in life I would say that I am called to be a pastor and a writer of some sort (I don’t quite have that one figured out yet). But how am I spending my free time? The time that I am not at my dream job or spending with my family? Is it writing? Well…not really. Its more TV and video games than writing.
I have taken and am currently taking concrete steps toward realizing this call (writing) and other calls (pastor, father, husband) in my life. And in those moments when I am lured away with promises of “freedom” in TV and video games and mindless internet surfing? I remind myself again and again: Discipline is the price of freedom.
How about you? What is your call? What are some concrete steps you’ve made in your everyday life to realize it?