Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

10:18 AMHeather

I've had an epiphany around here.  There is a real lack of discipline in my home.  A whining, "but I don't want to" approach to life.  And, nope.  Not even talking about my kids.  It's ME.  Me!  How I've lulled myself into justifying much of my approach in life, from little things to big things.  I've arrogantly patted myself on the back as being a pretty good about so many things.  But, the truth is being revealed in the light of some recent time in the Word and with God.

I'm full of excuses.  I'm a type A, perfectionist who loves to follow the rules and play by the book.  So, it's a bit startling to realize just how much I've missed the mark and how lazy I can be about so much.  Just how much I've settled for the status quo in my relationship with Christ.

I'm talking about some areas of my life where I've allowed myself to settle for good.  I don't know if you've heard the saying that "good" is the enemy of "the best."  It's so true.  We level out at good, telling ourselves it's good enough.  But, all the while, the best is just waiting for us.  And my epiphany is that discipline--or a lack thereof-- is what keeps me from the best.  

As I wade into the waters of a mutiny against excess, I've meditated on the idea of fasting and cutting excess.  Not for the sake of playing by some rules or just for the sake of simplyfing.  But more than that.  To genuinely engage in an all out pursuit of the abundance the Lord wants to give, which must include the self-denying process of shoving myself aside in order to connect with Him more.  To do something drastic and new to peel back the layers and take a good look.

Here's what I've discovered as a goal of my current call for the next few weeks or months.  I need to deal head-on with my lack of discipline.  Listen, this isn't meant to be some guilt trip for me or for you.  Guilt is a poor motivation to accomplish anything.  Nothing pure can come from that in our walk with Christ.  No, I'm wrapping my brain around being so enraptured with the idea of more of Him that I'm willing to obey that call to pick up my cross daily and follow him.  To deny myself for His sake.  To lay my agenda--and my excuses aside--in an act of reaching wholeheartedly for more of Him.  No holds barred.  Nothing held back.

I'm a bit of a mess here as I come face to face with some hard truths.  I'm finding it hard to put into words because I want to be sure that I accurately convey that I'm not about legalism.  What I'm talking about is falling so in love with my Savior that I hunger and thirst for Him as David did.  That I'm so enraptured in who He is that it's enough for me. That nothing is more precious or important to me than Him.  I'm all about a relationship with a loving God and not a religion full of meaningless rote or tradition.  Not self-denial for punishment sake but rather self-denial as a means to an end.  The end being the "more" that He wants to give.  I'm struggling to find the words here today.

Here's the thing.  As I am diving into the practice of cutting back and cutting out, I'm realizing that all too often, I lack discipline.  I just settle and avoid some things based on my own feelings and wants and desires.  Then I wrap those up in some pretty little justification or rationalization.  And I ignore that what I'm really doing is disobedience.  What I'm really doing is settling for good when God has a best waiting for me.  Oh, I want the best.  I just want to skip the hard journey to get there.

It's like I want the gold medal for a marathon.  To be the best in the world!  But, good grief--I refuse to run or do the hard work.  I want the glory.  But none of the training.  I want the abundant life, the peace that passes understanding, the joy and hope to overflowing.  Sure, I'll take that.  But, for the love--do NOT make me do anything hard to get there.  I want the glorious vacation on the beach with all the sun and fun.  But, I do not want to pay the price.  

This fasting and cutting excess and abiding by some regular and hard routines is like a mirror.  And I'm startled to see the ugly reflection staring back at me that's nothing but excuses.  It's making me come to terms with some areas where I believe God wants to refine me.  And deconstruct me and tear me down so that amazing wonderful reconstruction can occur.  You can't get a fabulous remodel without the ugly demo, right?

I had this crazy and lame idea to try Couch to 5K.  It sorta came from seeing all the pictures of my boot camp friends doing the Hot Chocolate Run last weekend.  I felt left behind.  I think it was the chocolate at the finish line and the super cute hoodies that enticed me more than the actual running part.  So, I threw it out there.  And my husband agreed that we should tackle it together.   So, week one is done.

He has kicked me out of bed this week to do our training when I just wanted to stay under the covers.  I walked and ran beside him in silence, grumpy on the inside.  Complaining mentally about how cold it was and wet and long and how tired I was.  Blah, blah, blah.  Eeyore!  Then BAM.  I realized.  This was the metaphor for my life.  This was lesson one in this journey toward gratitude and contentment, which has taken me on this crazy detour through fasting.

There is a cost.  There is an investment.  This is a need for discipline.  This is saying, "hey, there's a goal ahead and by golly, I'll do the work to get there because it's the best!  It's the finish line!  And I must train and work hard and sweat and do things I don't want to do all for the sake of the end result.  I gotta push past excuses and just say enough.  I'll be willing to do the hard work to get where I want to go." 

I think so many American Christians coast on the road of comfort and live a shallow spiritual life.  We do enough.  But do not make us do anything uncomfortable or weird.  That makes me uneasy.  That's outta my comfort zone.  And, we tell ourselves it's okay.   And it is.  We can live there.  Or we can dare to jump out of the boat and dive deep.   Then swim hard and far and press on when it feels hard and call a spade a spade.  We will accept the yoke of being disciplined about the hard work and deny our agenda.  We will unchain ourselves from the weight of "I wants" to relinquish control to the "He said.  He commanded.  That settles it.  End of story."  

What I hope I'm articulating here is way beyond our actions.  We can all go through the motions and never get caught.  We can ignore the bad attitudes and narcissistic thought lives and still follow Christ.  We can give to causes and shed a tear for the suffering in the world.  And still never feel so broken for those issues that we give till it hurts.  We can be like the Jews who gave in the temple and that was enough.  Or, we can be like the widow who gave extravagantly.  She gave all she had.  She was disciplined enough to deny herself and just give.  And she was blessed.  

I think what I'm hoping to say is that I am growing ever more passionate and excited to choose to be the widow.  I am not pleased when I realize just how big my agenda has become and how I've tried to fit it all in to a pretty little package and make excuses for why that's okay.  And all the while, blessings await.  The gold medal.  The glorious finish.  The eternal rewards.  If only I can press myself and train myself and choose to follow the verse below that I might experience a whole new "BEST"--a whole new depth in my walk.  But, the only road to get there is the discipline of self-denial.

24 Do you not know that in a race 
all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? 
Run in such a way as to get the prize.  
25 Everyone who competes in the games 
goes into strict training. They do it to get 
a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight 
like a boxer beating the air.  
27 No, I strike a blow to my body 
and make it my slave so that 
after I have preached to others, I myself 
will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I think this brutal and beautiful process that I sense in my walk with Christ is learning to run in such a way to get the prize.  To go into strict training.  To quit running aimlessly.  But instead, to do the hard work and follow the need for self-discipline.  Throwing off excuses and doing the training required to go deeper and find abundant blessings.  Stay tuned.  I have a sinking feeling that this is just the beginning.

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