It is hard to believe that by this time next week I will be back in BC! This short time spent at home has really flown by. It has been wonderful to spend a good amount of time with my family, which has not happened since Christmas! While it was sometimes busy as there are things I need to prepare for camp next week, it was almost refreshing to have a list of things to do, like re-shingling our roof! Although it was extremely hot up there, there is a certain amount of satisfaction in doing hard work like that, and seeing a finished product.
Since I have come home, I have actually been learning a lot about myself and how I react to new situations and environments. Since April, I have lived in three different spaces, and each move brings different challenges with it, probably the biggest challenge being change. When I am in a space for a while, I create a routine, and often stick to it because it’s what works for me… I pray at this time in this spot, I keep my Bible and journal in this place, this is what I do and where I go when I’m stressed… it is a routine, and it is comfortable. When I have a routine like that, when I am able to set aside those times to pray and journal and think, I find it easier to be aware of God’s presence; I get into the habit of practicing being aware of Him. But then, things change, and I need to set a new routine and get back into the habit of being aware of God’s presence and routinely setting aside those times to commune with Him. And then things change… again… and I have to start the process all over again.
A couple weeks ago, I found myself being discouraged with my lack of trust in God and obedience to Him; it seemed so very hard to remind myself of His presence and give my anxieties to Him. I was doing so well! But then change came, with new distractions and anxieties that impede me from trusting in God. As I was contemplating this, a verse came to mind. As a matter of fact, it was one that has been at the back of my mind for the past couple of months, because I was never quite sure if I really understood it. The verse is Proverbs 3:11-12 “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” I had struggled with this verse because I had correlated the word “discipline” with “punishment.” Now, this verse very much could refer to punishment (I honestly do not know as I have not asked anyone or extensively looked into it myself), but in my moment of discouragement, I came to the realization that “discipline” in this verse could mean training. If you are teaching your child to play the piano, or solve a math problem, and they do not get it the first time, you have them practice it until they get it right and truly understand it. Maybe to you this is a simple concept that you already understand, but to me it was really an “aha!” moment as to why it seemed so difficult to trust in God and be reminded of his faithfulness. If I want to have joy, God is not going to just give it to me. I need to train and practice having joy. When my routine gets shaken up with new distractions and worries and it is harder to find God’s presence and experience His peace, this is a perfect opportunity to train myself to be aware of His presence. God is allowing me to struggle so that I will learn to run to Him; His desire for me to strengthen my faith in Him is a testament to His great love for me, and shows me that I am His daughter! God does not just give us these attributes, like joy, or thankfulness, or trust, but He makes us practice them until they become second nature. He won’t just give me a mind that is always fixed on Him; He is training me to turn to Him always. The writer of Hebrews expands on these verses in Proverbs, and I find Hebrews 12:11 to be very encouraging: “No discipline seem pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Discipline is hard! Discipleship is hard! But the harvest produced far outweighs the cost, always.
The thing about discipline and training ourselves to be more like Jesus in every way is to remember that it is a lifelong thing. I forget this so often… I want to be like Christ and experience God’s perfect peace right now! When I forget that discipleship is a lifelong endeavour, I can become discouraged with every little failure. But as I said before, it is a training, a daily decision to choose God. These past few weeks I have been going through Philippians with a bunch of other girls who are serving as student leaders at school next year, and what Paul says in chapter 3 really struck me: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul himself admits that he is not at the place where he wants to or knows he should be, but he presses on and strains toward the goal: a perfect and restored relationship with Christ. Yes, I will fail sometimes; I will doubt, and I will forget God’s faithfulness. But, I press on, I train. As I learned at school in Quest this past year, discipline is the act of starting again.
Even knowing that, it is still sometimes hard to try again when I feel that failure comes more often than victory. 2 Corinthians 12:10 has been an encouragement a challenge for me: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I say this is a challenge because it is so easy for me to try to be perfect, even though I know it is impossible. When I am weak, when I fail, only then do I realize how much I need God and how often I try to do things on my own without relying on Him. When I am imperfect, God’s perfection is sufficient for me. Like in the song “Unashamed” by Starfield: “Here I am, at Your feet, in my brokenness complete”
I will not do things perfectly, but I am encouraged by Lance Odegard’s words in “The Incomplete”:
This is my glory, that I still need a Savior. This is my glory, that I can’t outgrow grace.