Many of us have heard a marvelous piece of music played on the piano (or some other instrument) and thought to ourselves, "I wish I could play that." But the reality is we don't. Not really. What we wish is that we could play the instrument without ever practicing the instrument. If we wanted to play, the first step and the ongoing steps are to practice. We can't just try in the moment. We have to train.
To live like Jesus, look like Jesus, and love like Jesus takes work. It requires God's work of grace upon us, and God's Spirit within us to change our desires and actions. But it also takes our work to open our hearts and lives to the Spirit's transformation (Phil. 2:12-13). That's where spiritual disciplines come in to play (prayer, meditation, study of scripture, unplugging, fasting, slowing, etc.). As we study these practices, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Be adventuresome in trying new approaches. Some practices will be right in your wheelhouse and some might really stretch your comfort zone. Just give them a shot. They might connect in ways you never imagined.
- Be thoughtful and intentional. Make a commitment. Make a concerted effort. It's going to require work. Experiment with what times of the day or days of the week work best. Think about location. Situation. Put things on your calendar. Block out time.
- Be gracious towards those who grow in different ways and at different paces.Spiritual elitism is not the point.We want to support one another, not judge one another.
- Be gracious towards yourself. Don't beat yourself up if you struggle. Get up and keep going. Growth ebbs and flows. We go through seasons of ups and downs. Love transforms, but shame suffocates. Grace empowers, but guilt enslaves.