Getting Better: a hard lesson in discipline

Several months ago, my friend Nick did a painting he called “Getting Better.” I’ll never forget it. It was a simple piece, with a sole tree with green leaves and sunshine – a peaceful setting. You know – one of those places you imagine having a picnic.

Over the past few months, I found myself in a place where I’ve felt like I’ve been doing all I could do just to hold things together. Do you know what I’m talking about here? A place in life where you feel like your head is barely above the water most days, where you’re a mile wide but only an inch deep, where you feel like you’re losing some part of yourself that you don’t feel would be that beneficial, where it’s sometimes hard to breathe, hard to get out of bed, where things are just – simply put – ‘off’ for you.

LifePlanBy the way, if you’ve found yourself in a rut like this before, I believe one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves (and believe) is “things will eventually get better.” Yeah, maybe so, but I also believe that we (Jesus-followers) are given a spirit to do something about it. (see 2 Timothy 1:7)

Let me be honest here (which I try to be all that time anyway): Since my daughter Julia was born in September, I’ve had such little consistency in my days. (For those of you who are parents, you probably know what I’m talking about) And I haven’t adjusted to it very well. Although I’d consider myself to be adventurous, I do like structure in my day…and I’ve literally had none.

So, the question has been looming for some time now: How do I care for my wife, my daughter, my relationships with family and friends, our church…if I can’t even take care of myself all that well?

A few weeks ago, all of this started to come together for me and I started to hear what I believe to be the systemic issue to what’s been – or not been – going on in my life. I finally realized by listening to all the voices going on around me that I simply wasn’t living a very disciplined life anymore. I’ve felt like I’ve been falling apart and haven’t known why.

Discipline. There’s the word. This took me back to a book I read a few years ago in seminary titled “Spiritual Disciplines” by Donald Whitney, and I’ve remembered this quote for several years…Discipline leads to freedom. In other words, freedom is the reward of discipline. As Proverbs 25:28 says, “A person without self-control (or self-discipline) is like a city with broken down walls.”

So the question becomes, How can we care for others well if we can’t care for ourselves well? Notice, this isn’t saying, “I can’t care for others until I’ve cared for myself.” I believe this is a lie. This is not about self-help. This is about coming under God’s control for the purpose of caring for others well. Don’t miss this.

Last week, I finally sat down and did something with the help of my wife that I want to share with you. It’s called a “Life-Plan.” I’m not exactly sure where I came across this concept, but over a year ago, my friend Gary Combs helped me put my first “Life-Plan” together. In short, it’s simply a way to build your daily schedule around the things that you give value to or that you want to give more value to. One of many ways to discipline your life. Click Here to see a copy of mine.

I’d encourage you to develop your own “Life-Plan.” Take time on it. Be creative. What you put your time and energy into is what you’ll give value to. Also, I encourage you to email me if I can help you in any way with this.

Added 03/28/08: Here’s a great place to get started. Begin this process by asking yourself some questions (from
Do I get up at the same time every morning?
Am I overweight?
Do I have any addictions (caffeine, sugar, porn, etc.) right now?
Do I take a day off from working every week?
Have I taken a vacation in the last year? That wasn’t mixed with work?
Is my email inbox near empty right now?
Is my office and car clean or a mess?
Am I usually on time or late for things?
If I tell someone I’ll call them, do I do it?
Do I spend time with God every day?
If married, do I have a consistent date night with my spouse?
Do I have a hobby I enjoy consistently?
How often do I exercise?
How much TV do I watch?
What does my appearance say about my level of discipline (hair, clothes, etc.)?
Do I eat right?
Do I have a lot of debt?
Do I ever say: “When things slow down, I’m going to_______”

Thanks to Shawn Lovejoy, Pastor of Mountain Lake Church near Atlanta, for being the the voice that brought all this together for me…

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