Discipline . . usually that word has a negative connotation. We often see it as something that comes when we've done something wrong. Or we see it as something we don't have enough of when it comes to exercise or eating right or a multitude of other things.
We use it in reference to our spiritual lives to talk about things we know we should do. Spiritual disciplines are often seen as our list of "have to's" to be a Christian.
I recently read a quote from Henri Nouwen that challenged how I think about spiritual disciplines.
"In the spiritual life, the word means 'the effort to create some space in which God can act.' Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you're not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn't planned on or counted on." (Henri Nouwen, Making All Things New)
To see it as an effort to create space in my life for God to act changes that. That makes it sounds more like something I want to do. I want God to work in my life.
And when I think about it, it becomes pretty clear that if I'm busy and always thinking about what I need to do next, there isn't room for God to speak to me or to work in my life. If I don't have time to slow down from everything else I'm doing, God doesn't have room to work.
That's where the things we often label as spiritual disciplines come in - having a quiet time. reading our Bibles, praying. These are things that create that "space in which God act." They cause us to stop running from one thing to the next, so that we can actually hear God.
These spiritual disciplines don't control how God works in our lives; they simply create the space for God to work.
I wonder if we need to change the way we evaluate for ourselves and ask others about their spiritual lives. What if, instead of asking how their quiet time is going, we began to ask how they were doing at creating space in their lives for God to act? What if we did the same for ourselves?
For me, it changes it from a feeling of "have to" to a "want to". What about for you?