So this is kind of a part two to what I started a few days back. Read this post to catch up. I'm not sure if I know how to divide this up, so for all of my ADHD "short post only" friends, I'm sorry. You know, actually I'm not, just suck it up and read.
In quick summary, I posted thoughts about who we were born to be, using an illustration about Gollum from The Two Towers. I concluded by mentioning a friend of mine who practiced the discipline of fasting to help put a struggle of hers in it's proper place. I got to thinking about disciplines and felt a rush of thoughts coming on. I've had this thought that the authentic practice of the spiritual disciplines is of utmost importance in our struggle. Ephesians says we "wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers..", and I think we are losing this wrestling match on the deep personal levels, and consequently, on the public levels where we live and relate and have influence. I think we are losing because of how we "wrestle" and because of who we wrestle against.
I'm discouraged and depressed often about my inablility to win my battle against the bulge. Bulge really isn't a good word because for that would suggest pushing against my belt and "bulging" it out a bit. The reality is I have a full on prison break, the walls have given way and my belly runneth rampant. Not sure why the King James language there, felt right, though. ANYWAY, maybe part of my problem is that food is not really what I'm wrestling with. Most of my favorite foods, burgers, steaks, meat, are most definitely flesh and blood (go ahead and run amuck with that my vegan friends). While I'm not so certain that's really what Paul was thinking, I think there's strong application here. Our society is driven by consumerism, sex, food, excess. The reality is, for most of us who follow Christ we are driven by the same things. I guess the question I'm asking is if a person is addicted to pornography, is that person really losing to the pornography or losing on a much deeper level? I'm not suggesting that we don't name our sins and struggles honestly, I'm just suggesting that the outward expression is a surface sin, and we should name it as such, but we should also name the deep sins of placing ourselves and our needs on the throne of our hearts and lives. It seems bass ackward to me that it's more difficult to admit to certain surface struggles be they sexual, chemical, etc., than it is to admit I believe I make a better god than God. I just believe we need to rethink what it means to "wrestle not against flesh and blood".
How do we wrestle, though? I think this is where we must have a revisiting of the spiritual disciplines. Here's where I believe I have made critical errors in my life regarding these disciplines. First, I reduced them to a check list of habits to complete. Read my Bible, pray, attend church, witness, don't sin. Completing an activity is not the point, connecting with God is the point. I spent way to much of my walk following this cheapened and empty version of the disciplines believing it's what made me spiritual, all the while being chained to deep personal sins and being disconnected from God. Ultimately, through the faithful influence of Godly friends I recognized the emptiness of a legalistic faith. So I swung the other way and determined that any consistent action like that was just living a life of duty toward God instead of a life of love toward God unless it "felt" rightly motivated. How can I ever be rightly motivated, though, if I'm not connected with the only One who can change my heart? I think true spiritual disciplines are an important element in the pathway to seeing our lives changed and being set free. I understand that they are not THE deal, but I really believe it's so important for us to take a good look again. I don't have the answers. I know there are at least a couple of good books out there about the disciplines, one by Richard Foster and one by Dallas Willard. It would probably be good to read them, but I've read plenty of books that present things in powerful ways, and then not done a damn thing about it. How do we actually go forward, in a personal way and in community?