In conversations about spiritual disciplines, sometimes its hard for us to get past the old "faith vs. works" debate. Why should I do spiritual disciplines? I can't score any points with God on my own.
This is true, but as I read a familiar parable of Jesus this morning I found myself thinking about a simple concept:
Creating an environment, a space to allow something to happen without obstacles
When my daughter was born, we kept our house peaceful and on routine so that she had an environment to focus on growing and becoming stable.
My wife and I create an environment of rest and restoration in our home so we can get re-energized and reconnected with each other.
I attempt (and fail) at keeping my office clean and uncluttered so I can focus on what is most important.
Jesus in the parable of the sower (see Mark 4:1-20) talks about seed thrown in all kinds of soil - a hardpan path, shallow rocky soil, soil filled with thorns and weeds, and finally tilled black soil - and what kind of growth takes place. Later with the disciples He tells them what challenge each soil faced.
Hardpan = Satan/temptation
Rocky/Shallow = trials/tribulation
Soil with thorns = cares and concerns of life
Great soil = no problem
It dawned on me that the gift of spiritual disciplines such as fasting, solitude, silence and intentional self-sacrifice is the gift of creating an environment. We can spend time and devote focused thinking and prayer to what the challenges to our soil might be and the spiritual disciplines help us clear the soil of thorns, rocks, temptations, trials.
For example, when we practice simplicity - when we de-stuff our lives - we get free from the protection elements of owning a lot. We don't have to order our lives around protecting, providing for, and paying for our stuff. We have just created an environment where God can plant some seeds without interference.
Our participation in the disciplines doesn't earn anything from God, instead it creates new spaces where He can grow new things in us.
What does your environment look like today? What are the inhibitors to the soil of your soul and what could God plant and grow in you if you were to engage in disciplines that create an environment ripe for planting?