I’m in the process of reading through Richard Foster’s fantastic, classic book The Celebration of Discipline  and I ran across a quote that is both beautiful and ridiculous all at the same time.

Joy is a keynote of all the [spiritual] disciplines.(2)

As the parent of a young child, this statement sounds different in my ears than it did the first time I read it. As we guide our child – kicking and screaming sometimes – down the path of becoming a healthy, well-adjusted kid discipline is critical. Setting up boundaries, creating space where she embraces good and life giving behaviors while shutting out the seeds of behaviors that will serve her well in the future.

That’s the beautiful part.

The ridiculous part is that she’s not joyful about it. Not at all. Unless those are tears of joy she's crying when we say she has to go to bed at a decent hour. I doubt it.

It doesn’t change for adults either: sometimes we mistake lack of discipline for our freedom and human rights. Don’t tell me what to do, I’m an adult and I make my own decisions and cut my own path.

No you don’t. Honestly, if you somehow do force your own path you find it isn’t all that great in the long run.

I hope to embrace this joyful outlook on the disciplines – be excited about fasting, silence, etc. – so that I can begin to live into the goodness of being guided by someone who isn’t as subjective and blind to reality as I am.

We are in need of discipline primarily because we are undisciplined and closed off to the grace that will eventually save us.

If my daughter goes to bed, she’ll be rested and healthy and ready to go. If I take joy in fasting, I’ll come to the realization of just how dependent on God I am and will lean on him more.

I want to take comfort in this promise from Scripture today, and I pray that you do the same as you pursue the spiritual disciplines in your own life:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant. But later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11, ESV)

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