Disastrous Disciplines …
I soon discovered in my Christian walk that I was a bit of a failure. I loved Jesus, was excited about the prospect of living for Him and was burning with a passion to follow Him wherever that would take me. But I had a few problems that would remain private failings for many years, because I was recognised as having a call on my life, went to Bible college to train for so called ministry and then became a local church Pastor. I really struggled with the disciplines of the Christian walk. Those things that I must be doing to show my love for Jesus and to reveal my maturity. If I was a serious disciple of Jesus then I would allow my life to mirror that commitment. I was taught early on to cultivate a good private prayer life, to read my Bible every day, to never miss a meeting because I needed the fellowship and teaching, to tell someone else about Jesus and not be ashamed to share, to always seek His presence through worship and to always give ten per cent of my wages or earnings (before tax of course for the really committed). Talk about so much stuff to load on the guilt. I was rubbish at connecting through my prayer life. The message seemed to be to at least spend an hour a day because the disciples got told off for not doing that in the garden. An hour!!!! I could hardly make ten minutes without distractions or sleep kicking in. I struggled for years trying to use daily readings, trying to play worship music in the background, walking the streets, getting up early (another expectation, especially on leaders), none of this worked for me. All it did was rack up the guilt. What kind of Christian was I to not even be able to pray? Those you spoke to always seemed to be prayer warriors or intercessors. Hallelujah, what a failure. Added to this I could not get into reading the Word every day. In college we were expected to read the whole of the Bible in a year. I spent the whole year playing catch up. Many days I would miss altogether. Not because I did not love the stories or get anything from it, but I was not a natural reader. I had hardly read a whole book in my life at that point. It has to really grip me to get me to read it all the way through. Leviticus, Numbers etc. Sorry but they bored me to death. What a failure, especially when I am preaching the Word to others, encouraging them to live the disciplines, and I can hardly do it myself. Tell someone about Jesus! Even a stranger on a bus or a doorstep or on the streets? Forget it! I am not the greatest conversationalist with people until I really get to know them so to do this scared the shit out of me. I have never got my Bible out to read it on the bus, never mind start giving my testimony. What a failure! I detested doing door to door, I hated doing questionnaires, I would rather keep myself to myself on a plane. Disastrous disciplines… All these books I was supposed to read about people who prayed hours a day who would see miracles. People who immersed themselves in the Word and witnessed to anything that moved. None of this was my story. The guilt I carried was immense. What a failure. I am sure I am not the only one who has felt like this.
The Walk of Life.
But I no longer feel guilty. I refuse to take that crap into my life. Guilt is not a gift from God. His yoke is easy and His burden is light, so if I feel too much pressure about anything then it is not from God. Now some people may find the disciplines easy, well good for you, but please do not put your easy success on my shoulders to carry. I refuse to feel the pressure to perform any more. I refuse to allow what I seemingly fail in to write me off. I am a child of God and for Him I have discovered that is enough. He never created us to compartmentalise our lives with times of prayer, times of worship, times of evangelism, times of seeking Him. These are all disciplines and ways of life that have nothing to do with walking and dwelling with our creator day by day. Instead of getting hold of new converts and telling them they must pray, they must read the Word, they must come to church, we need to start revealing to them how to connect with God through every day life. Stop loading them with expectations of what makes a good Christian and therefore lining them up for success or failure. Do the stuff and God approves, don’t do the stuff and God thinks you are not as worthy of blessing. We need to learn what Brother Lawrence did, that life is continual conversation with God. Not in talking to Him all the time, but walking with Him. Calvin Miller said ‘even as you sojourn while walking. you are talking to God’. Clement of Alexandria simply put it this way, prayer is just ‘keeping company with God’. He is there in the walk of life. I find myself chatting away all of the time, listening all of the time, then if neither happens, just dwelling and being all of the time. I may go for weeks without having a ‘dear Lord Jesus’ moment. I never set any time aside. I refuse to carry the weight of failed disciplines. I just live and love, and I have found he just lives and loves with me too. This is something of praying continually rather than having a time of prayer. The Bible I read when I want to rather than because I have to because I believe I have hidden His Word in my heart that I may not sin against Him. Evangelism is not a planned event, but my feet are shod with the Gospel of peace. Wherever I walk I carry good news, even when I am silent. I do not feel the urge to give my testimony in the first five minutes of a conversation in case that person dies and goes to hell. I just live amongst humanity and talk about life and then if the conversation steers in a natural way to talk about faith and life I will gladly do that, and it is surprising how often the situation arises. But I refuse to feel guilty about not getting the name Jesus into every conversation. Get off my back Mr Perfect Christian.
Get The Monkey Off The Back.
I now feel so free. I love my walk in Him, my daily walk. It is not measured in success and failure of my disciplines, just measured in how He loves me full stop. It is not about if He hears my voice or I hear His, it is about being in each others company. Just being. We love having measuring lines that reveal maturity and depth of a Christian walk, but surely Jesus came to free us from all that. He came so it would not be about memorizing Scripture verses about Him, or attending a building religiously, or having to pray out into space to connect with Him. When the curtain was torn we entered in, or even He entered into our lives. We do not need special songs or gatherings to meet with Jesus, we just need to wake up. My attendance does not reveal my maturity of walk with Him any more than praying for an hour, telling someone about Jesus or reading a chapter a day. It was drummed into going without prayer for seven days makes one weak. Now the monkey is off my back I have never felt so strong and assured in my faith or walk with Him. Never felt like I could fly like I could right now. There is a lightness in my spirit that never existed for many years of struggle with the disciplines. I no longer live the life of a covered up failure, not allowing others to really see how pathetic I was. I feel free to be honest, and walk in the honesty, believing that God appreciates that so much. That to me is the truth that will set us free. I have taken a time out from guilt giving activities, and I now feel like a total winner.