JOY MAKES THE DIFFERENCE IN OUR TIME WITH GOD
(Tuesday, December 13th)
Discipline: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
Devotion: piety; an act of prayer or private worship; the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal
Which came first, the discipline or the devotion?
This question came to mind as I was reflecting on these two words. I was thinking about spiritual disciplines, the practices that help us draw closer, quiet ourselves, and listen for God. They serve to increase our devotion for God, and then our devotion for God inspires us to want more time in those disciplines!
Our Advent Joy is the Joy of the discipline that comes from the Joy of the devotion.
My faith was first built on discipline. Our family went to worship and Sunday school each week, whether I wanted to or not. As a young teen, I regarded God as a disciplinarian who was often disappointed in me. My junior high catechism classes bored me, and Old Testament history, well, I could not see the point of those stories. Even as an adult, I struggle with meditative silence, and I definitely do not grow spiritually through fasting. And yet, all of these experiences set the foundation for a deeper relationship and longing for God.
Isn’t this true with every loving relationship? At times a parent feels joy and delight in their devotion for their child – enjoying sweet snuggles, answering innocent questions, savoring adorable moments. At other times love requires discipline – getting up in the middle of the night for feedings, changing yet another diaper, doing endless loads of laundry. Our devotion includes discipline, and our discipline includes devotion.
Over time, I have discovered the spiritual disciplines that align with my soul. I find deep joy in God’s presence each time I walk in nature, journal my prayers, share devotions with Jim, and write my reflections. I eagerly approach these disciplines with heartfelt joy – and devotion! Yet, I know there is joy in stretching and challenging myself with other disciplines that may feel more like… discipline.
These two gifts belong together. Advent Joy enriches both of these, as God’s presence in Christ invites our discipline and increases our devotion.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High,
to declare your steadfast love in the morning
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
(Psalm 92:1-4 NRSVUE)