Do you ever feel like God is showing you something so clearly and vividly that you just have to share it with someone? Well, I have something to share with you, that God has been clearly pointing out to me. This is going to get long, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in. It has to do with discipline.
I'm not talking about the discipline of getting up early...or eating right....or exercising...or spending time in the Word, although these are all good disciplines.
No, I'm talking about the disciplines of love and patience. What? You say those aren't 'disciplines'? Well, I would like to argue that point, and I think you'll see why in a minute. Let me start with an example, to make it easier.
You're sitting in a fancy restaurant, your kids are home with a babysitter. Your handsome husband is sitting across from you, dressed in that fuzzy green sweater that just makes you swoon (what???) Anyway....it's a candle-lit dinner over glasses of sparkling grape juice (okay, you can have wine in your day-dream, but this is MY day-dream). You're remembering together the days of your honeymoon, and suddenly, he reaches over and gently brushes your hair out of your face.
Let me ask you something. Do you love your husband at that moment? Of course you do!! What goon wouldn't?? It's easy to love in a situation like that! But now.....a different scenario.
It's a week-day evening. Your husband is a half hour late from work, you've been home with the kids all day by yourself....a long eleven hour day. The older kids are running around chasing each other, the baby is crying and holding onto your leg the whole time you're trying to make dinner, which is, needless to say, burning on the stove because the phone won't stop ringing. Oh, and you have a piano student coming in less than an hour. Your late husband walks in the door, and the first words out of his mouth are "Can I shower before dinner?"
Do you love your husband in this moment?? Hmmm....good question. You probably do not feel love. You feel like reaching over and shaking him and saying "Shower?? Shower?? Are you serious? Dinner is burning cause you're a half hour late, I'm going insane, and you want to SHOWER?? What for? I can still see the whites of your eyes behind all that chimney soot on your face. Just open your mouth wide at dinner so the soot doesn't go in your mouth, okay?"
But of course, you don't say that. Because you have enough...ahem, here it comes.....discipline....to know that you love this man, even if you don't feel like it at the moment. You have enough discipline to know that love is not based on a single emotion at a single moment in time. Love is primarily a decision that we make.....to care for somebody else, regardless of whether it's a 'for better' or a 'for worse' kind of moment.
I think you see where I'm getting at with this. Let me move on to patience.
Imagine it's a Sunday morning. You got plenty of rest the night before, your pregnant body feels good for a change, all your pregnancy hormones are completely lined up and functioning properly, and you managed to eat breakfast before the kids woke up. They run to you screaming "Mom, I didn't do it, HE did it!!!!" You calmly bend down, with patience in your voice and say "Well, let's talk about this calmly and work it out" You feel in control of things and on top of the world. Are you being patient? Of course you are.
But it's easy in a situation like that, when you're feeling 100%, and like you could go out and conquer the world. Let me offer you another scenario.
You tossed and turned all night long, trying to get comfortable. You wake up feeling like a truck ran over you. Your pregnancy hormones are...well, NOT lined up perfectly, and you feel like if anybody says anything to you, you'll probably just growl like a bear. So....when those kids come running up to you, crying and arguing and expecting you to fix the problem, you have every right in the world to growl and snap and get angry, right? Or......maybe not.
You see, patience is also a discipline.
A discipline is something that we train ourselves to do....even when it's not easy. I eat that apple on the counter instead of the chocolate bar, not because it's easy, but because it's what I've disciplined myself to do. I get on that elliptical and exercise those leg muscles not because it's easy, but because it's what I've trained myself to do.
The same holds true for love and patience. You show love to your husband even when you don't feel love....because you've disciplined yourself to know the truth....that love is a choice, not an emotion. You show patience to your kids even when you don't feel patient.....because that's what discipline is, something you've trained yourself to do time after time after time again.
So.......make a challenge for yourself, along with me. The next time you don't FEEL like responding patiently to your whining, unhappy children...make yourself do it anyway. Bite your tongue, count to ten, pray for help....and then smile and work out a solution with them. You'll feel so much better than if you yell and stomp your foot, even though that's probably what you feel like doing. The next time might be just as hard. And the time after that. But gradually, I think that it will start to get easier. A discipline. Just like getting up early in the morning gets easier after you've done it upteen times over again.
The people in our lives who just seem to be 'naturally' patient or loving....I truly believe that many of them have simply disciplined themselves to be that way.
Anyway, I don't share all this because it's something I've conquered in my own life. On the contrary, it's something I still struggle with, and I think that's why God has been pointing it out so clearly to me lately. Love.....even when you don't feel like it. Be patient.....not because it's easy, but because you've disciplined yourself to do the right thing.
It's one of my biggest challenges in 2012. Would you pray for me for the strength to grow more disciplined in these areas, and I'll do the same for you :)
P.S. (Although the situations in this post are not completely based on true stories, they are obviously based on real truths in my life, and you can rest assured that my husband will get just as much humor out of reading them as I did in writing them---he's a great kind of guy that way ;)