There are things I absolutely love to do. I love to plan, organize, and administrate. I love to teach. Writing brings me great delight and relaxation, as do reading, sewing, and sorting through my thousands of digital pictures. And although I’m not big on general cooking, baking is a joy to me.
Frequently, these great delights get pushed to the back burner of life. Either I don’t have enough time for them or I feel guilty for finding pleasure in them because of all of the other things I should be doing. I convince myself that discipline means rejecting the delights in favor of the necessities. Such an attitude would bring great pride to the heart of an early American Puritan, would it not? It is laughable to me to think that I could have anything in common with the harsh, fun-rejecting Puritans, but their convictions are, in truth, somehow ingrained in me. Their heritage continues to throw the wet blanket of guilt over my enjoyment of those things I truly love to do.
Discipline is, indeed, essential for the life of a growing Christian. We must be willing to set aside the fleshly things that we crave in favor of the heavenly things that God wants for us. But, we frequently convince ourselves that the things we delight in are simply rewards for our discipline in the tough areas of life and have no place in our lives if we don’t feel that we deserve them. Using a very surface example, it’s as if we are only allowed an hour or two of blissful recreation on the weekends if we’ve been diligent to keep our houses immaculate all week long.
But, what if true, Biblical discipline has a more expansive definition that we typically grant it? What if it isn’t just about keeping ourselves in line in the areas that are tough for us? What if it also surrounds, embraces, and fulfills the purest of our delights? And what if those delights are as essential to our spiritual growth as the necessities?
Have we ever stopped to think that maybe the delights are more than just rewards? Could it be possible that they have a place of their own? That God wants us to be disciplined in our delights just as He wants us to be disciplined in our challenges?
Think with me for a minute about the things that bring you joy. True joy. I’m not talking about how you unwind and rest after a long day. I’m talking about those activities that just fill you with delight as you’re doing them. The ones that rejuvenate you from head to toe when you really get into them.
Now answer this question: How easy is it to get those things going?
When I am disciplined in the things that delight me, it is easy to see. Instead of feeling like all I want to do is crash at the end of the day, I can’t wait to dig into the next sewing project. Instead of being unable to stir up one iota of brain power, I get excited about having a few minutes to tap away at the computer. Instead of feeling horrible for all of the senseless nibbling I’ve done, I get excited over being able to treat myself to a baked delight fresh from the oven.
When I’m undisciplined in my delights, the very things that fulfill me seem to take too much effort. But, when I am disciplined, they bring me far more joy than the most relaxing of entertainment otherwise.
Have you noticed that the things you delight in get put on the back burner? Have you noticed that they seem to have lost some of their luster? Stop a bit and evaluate your discipline. It’s not just about the challenging issues – it’s about the delightful things as well. Restore your discipline in the things you should love, and find your love for them return.