The Spiritual Disciplines: Practices for Followers of Jesus

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When I played volleyball, I spent hours at the gym trying to make myself a more skilled player. When my knee was injured in a car accident, I went to physical therapy for weeks on end in effort to restore the strength in my muscles. When I realized that I was depressed, I started going to counseling. When I was experiencing a lot of emotional breakdowns (read about that here), I began taking charge of my emotional health, which included staying in counseling. So, if I want to mature as a follower of Jesus and take care of my spiritual health, naturally, I should devote time and effort to that as well. 

In high school, I let my relationship with Christ depend on my emotions. I wouldn't have admitted that then, but it's the truth. If I felt close to God, I spent a lot of time in prayer, loved going to church, talked about Him all the time, worshipped freely— you get the point. But, if I felt far from Him, that was it. I never read my Bible, I had to drag myself to church, I avoided talking about Him, all the things. I would justify it by saying, "I don't want to force myself to do these things (aka the spiritual disciplines) because I want it to come from a place of love for Christ." Frankly, I was lazy and apathetic. I felt stuck spiritually and would blame God. I was basing my relationship with God on my emotions and choosing what was easy, rather than believing what was true, or making any effort to improve my situation.

Recently, I've made a huge effort to prioritize my spiritual health above everything else, and it's been a game changer. I realized that it would be a lot easier for my mental, emotional, and physical health to be taken care of if I was making an effort to care for my spiritual health-- and I was right. In the last few months, despite anxiety and stress and work load and anything else, I've been okay. I've had an easier time taking care of myself, because, despite obstacles or apathy, I've started my day at my desk with Jesus (Most days, that is. C'mon, I'm human.). 

Now, I'm learning the power of prioritizing my practice of the spiritual disciplines. I have rearranged my routine to not only make room for these practices, but to be able to practice them well, so they can truly impact my life. (Spoiler: they have.) I may not always feel close to God, but I believe that He is never far from me. I have come to love my mornings at my desk, to look forward to the freedom of confession, to want to pray, to enjoy serving, to get excited on Sunday mornings— and I can only give God the glory for that. 

So, what really are the spiritual disciplines? They are not a to-do list, but rather a guide of how you can mature in your life as a follower of Christ. They're practices and habits. They can usher you into an intimate walk with Jesus. They aide you in becoming more like Christ. They're not practices just for the spiritually mature, nor are they just for new believers. They are life changing and they are necessary, and I hope to spend the rest of my life learning more about them. 

God intends the Disciplines of the
spiritual life to be for ordinary human
beings: people who have jobs, who care
for children, who wash dishes and mow lawns.
In fact, the Disciplines are best exercised
in the midst of our relationships with our
husband or wife, our brothers and sisters,
our friends and neighbors.
— Richard J. Foster, The Celebration of Discipline

In this season of lent, Emma and I are going to invite you guys to learn about the spiritual disciplines with us. After Spring Break, we're going to dive into an overview of the three types of spiritual disciplines (inward, outward, and corporate) which will outline exactly what each practice is. We'll use Richard J. Foster's The Celebration of Discipline, our experiences, and, naturally, the Bible, to do our best to teach you what we know, and mostly what we're learning. It's important for me to say that we both feel under-qualified to do this, and are very open about that. We're learning, we're not pastors, and neither of us consider ourselves all that wise. So, be patient with us, and know that you're invited to join the conversation by commenting below.

I hope that you'll join us in our learning process. I hope, and pray, that God can use these blogs to teach about the spiritual disciplines, and that your practice of them can change your life as it's changed mine. Because of my practice of the spiritual disciplines, I'm in a really cool place in life, and I'm really thankful. We serve a really cool, really intentional God, and I am so excited that I get to spend the rest of my life getting to know Him better.

Ashton
Lover of water, coffee, & cats

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