Sunday, November 2, 2003

The Disciplines According to Saint Todd

Todd Hunter wrote the following earlier this year, on the "Spiritual Disciplines" (fasting, prayer, worship, service, meditation, study of Scripture, plus a few others I can't remember just now):

"Spiritual disciplines -- done in reliance on the Spirit and the Grace of God -- remove the causes of our personal failures. This is true because the disciplines work on the inner or hidden part of our lives from which our 'automatic' actions come; things like cussing at or giving particular hand signs to people who drive in ways we do not appreciate.

"Think here about Jesus' words in Matthew 12:33-35 -- good tree (inner DNA), good fruit; bad tree (essential inner nature, DNA), bad fruit. Any thing else would be biological chaos. Apple trees easily and naturally produce apples. But no matter how hard they may try, no matter how much they may sincerely groan and 'religiously' agonize over it, they cannot produce pumpkins. Finally, Jesus says, "The good man brings good things out (from the inside or hidden part) of the good STORED UP IN HIM, and the evil man brings evil things out (from the inside or hidden part) of the evil stored up in him".

"How does one 'store up good things in them' so that they can then easily and naturally act from them? The grace inspired and Spirit empowered disciplines. Obviously, there are whole books written on the topic; surely more than I can say in a blog entry.

"The disciplines are 'indirect effort'. In practicing them, we do what is currently under our control with the intent, hope and expectation that they will enable to do what we dream of in our idealistic language. Watch 'The Karate Kid' with this in mind. You will see how Daniel-san learns karate in very indirect ways. By doing what he can -- scrub floors, paint fences and waxing cars -- he becomes the kind of person who can naturally and easily defend himself from even expert karate punches and kicks. Lesson: we cannot 'try' to be good (remember the apples and pumpkins); we must 'train' ('store up good in us') to be good."

Well? Whaddaya think? Can we "train" ourselves without getting all legalistic, paranoid, and neurotic about it?