“The world is not lacking in God’s self-disclosing beauty and ever-present joy, but in attentiveness to God’s self-disclosing beauty and ever-present joy.”
I concluded last week’s post with the above quote. Essentially urging that God is not absent from us but it is we who are absent from God. I then asked a question (captured in the image below) I have been considering at great length these days.
In order to move forward on this journey of discovering the self-disclosing beauty of God, I find it helpful to wed two seemingly disparate terms: Discipline and Delight! Indeed, it’s rare that we connect discipline to delight. The converse is often true. We connect discipline to duty.
While discipline and duty are undoubtedly linked, a sense of duty never provides enough motivation for the consistency of discipline. Indeed, all discipline is birthed in delight or captured by an overarching, life-shaping longing or desire.
Consider, for example, March Madness. March Madness is the marketing term developed to describe the pinnacle of the college hoops world. The dreams, hopes and aspirations of dozens of teams and hundreds of athletes culminate during these frenetic weeks of non-stop basketball action. Ultimately, one team will be crowned as college basketball’s hoops champion for the year to come.
While every team and athlete dream of this moment, only one will be rewarded, and few given the opportunity to compete. Much will separate these few teams competing and this one team who will win. The discipline of each team will enter stage right, and exit stage left. The virtue of discipline, though significant, is only one of the factors that will determine the outcome. Another virtue, however, will enter center stage and will, when the curtain closes on this magnificent athletic drama, receive the standing ovation.
What is required of a young man or woman to give such energy to this endeavor? In today’s dream-little duty laden world, one’s first response might likely be discipline. Discipline is never enough. Discipline needs more. Discipline requires delight – or desire. Indeed, the reward – the honor of being national champion – must be so compelling that one would rearrange life – all known resources – in order to win it!
Don’t believe me? Then pay attention to the words the coaches and team leaders employ before, during and after each contest to captivate their team’s imagination. You will likely hear phrases similar to these, shouted a the top of their lungs:
“How badly do you want it?”
“This is the moment we’ve dreamt about or entire lives.”
“You have to want it more than they do.”
That’s why discipline and delight are brothers in arms or sisters on march together. They are partners, but delight is the major partner; always serving as magnetic north! Delight is the internal force which pushes us to exceed assumed limits and extend our reach beyond that which we once thought possible.
I am coming to believe that delight fuels discipline in every area of our life and any endeavor which we undertake. I know this has been true in my life. Particularly in my life as a disciple of Christ! Consider the following three personal pictures of my internal delight in God. These delights have stirred my disciplines for God and shaped my desires toward Him!
- Delight in the hope of an ever present and unending relationship with the Messiah! I am reminded of the words of Jesus in John 14 when he says that he will not leave us as orphans. He will, in fact, come to us! Jesus, time and time again, speaks of making His home with us. He is, from a Scriptural vantage point, the clearest manifestation of God’s self-disclosing beauty and ever-present joy! The more I desire to be with Him, the more I grow in my love for Him. The more I desire to be with Him, the more I am at home simply being!
- Delight in the hope of a radical reorientation of my priorities, plans, and purpose! As I delight in the ever present and unending relationship Christ has established with me, my truest self begins to emerge. In this relationship, I am – at last – able to see myself as God sees me! When I see myself as Christ sees me, my desire for more of God is fueled; firing and thirsting for His self-disclosing beauty and ever-present joy! Indeed, God fuels my desire for God. As I enjoy this desire, I become a more loving, caring and thoughtful human. I become someone who contributes significantly to the circles of community in which I am privileged to live. This radical reorientation dethrones my false self and all he holds dear! Where there once ruled pride, I now submit to humility. Where there once ruled jealousy, I now submit to joy in another’s good fortune. Where there once ruled lust, I now submit to being deeply loved and loving more deeply. Where there once ruled greed, I now submit to the joy of generosity, etc.
- Delight in the hope of an eternal and unmatched reward! Scripture is clear on this matter. The reward which awaits me will far exceed any desire and fulfill all desires I have ever known! II Timothy 4:8 exlaims, “All that awaits me now is the crown of righteousness which the Lord, ‘the Righteous Judge,’ will award to me on that Day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for him to appear.” Indeed, this crown is the end of all my desire and the fuel for the disciplines that align my desires with Christ!
These three delights are the fuel for my ongoing and ever deepening journey with Christ. Another word for this journey is discipleship. I characterize discipleship as an ongoing journey with God into and through the forest of false selves, structures and systems!
Eugene Peterson, in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, vividly frames the nature of being a disciple of the Christ:
“It is not difficult in our world to get a person interested in the message of the Gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate. Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim. In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier Christians called holiness.”
Peterson suggests this journey invites a long obedience in the same direction. If so, perhaps it’s wise to ask – before one embarks on this journey – if the desire to delight in God is compelling enough for me to rearrange my life around it? To use our March Madness metaphor: is this desire captivating enough to fuel the disciplines which shape the journey required to reach my ultimate prize?
Clearly, in my mind, the answer to this question is a resounding Yes! Why? Because God desires that I find my delight in Him. As I find my delight in Him, God’s gift to me is the fulfillment of my heart’s desire. The Psalmist encourages us with these words, Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. In other words, as I take delight in God, I receive great good from God.
This journey of delight is one which fuels discipline. The discipline of a slow, steady walk in the same direction! Since we usually spend decades of our life acquiring false selves, structures and systems, it is a journey left untraveled by many. There is great reward for this journey: the reward of discovering God’s self-disclosing beauty and every present joy as my greatest desire.
To be at home with God is to be lavished in His self-disclosing beauty and ever-present joy. It is here, in this place, where you and I are most complete – where we experience great joy!
Disrupting to Renew!