Discipline

As a part of the MDiv (Master of Divinity – said like this) program, I am required to take a course called “Theology and Practice of Christian Spirituality and Formation”.  It is a class studying the reason for and use of the spiritual disciplines (such as fasting, solitude, silence, the prayer of examen, etc.)

Our first assignment is to practice “spiritual journaling” for 30 days.  I’m in the middle of this assignment right now and it seems to be going okay.  Not much explanation was given as to what a spiritual journal might look like–are entries supposed to be addressed to God?  Do I cover a certain topic every day? What is legitimate content for a spiritual journal? (I wish I had read this book, instead of buying it and putting it on the shelf)–so I assume it’s quite open-ended.  It is a discipline not only as a means of self-reflection and God-reflection, but even in terms of staying focused.  It’s difficult to not veer off into events and frustrations of the day without any further thought or simply making it a book of theological musings.  I don’t know, maybe those are all legitimate forms of spiritual journaling.

After the 30 days of journaling period is over, we have to practice another discipline of our choosing for the next 30 days.  The professor suggested that it would be profitable if it was something I don’t normally do.  I jotted down some options during class today.  This is what the list looked like:

internet

lunch

internet

I had unwittingly written “internet” twice.  Part of me wants to take that as a message from my subconscious that I should give up the internet for 30 days–an internet fast.  That would certainly free up a lot of time.  But what would it look like?  I’d like to think that it would require a complete disconnection–no blogging, no reading of blogs, no twittering or Facebooking–but in the age of email communication cutting oneself off wholesale from the internet would kind of be like fasting from the telephone.  But if I do allow for email, but nothing else, I would be placing myself in a place of “temptation” every time I checked email.

The list I wrote down was essentially a fast list, and by “lunch” I meant doing a 30-day lunch fast.  I have never fasted before, so I have no idea what that would look like.  I presume that instead of eating lunch I should pray or contemplate or practice some other discipline.  I’m inclined to dismiss this option because the studying mind needs sustenance, but perhaps that’s the point: give up control for one meal.   And maybe eat more at breakfast to hold me over.

Another practice which came to mind this morning was lectio divina, which, as I understand it, it a slow, deliberate reading of a verse or passage of scripture, maybe even several times over, and then contemplating it.  I’ll have to do more reading about that.

The discipline I was considering most seriously prior to writing my in-class list was silence.  I thought this might be a challenging and helpful discipline, given my lack of focus and constant drive to distraction.  It would be a way for me to stop and listen and simply be and let God.  The biggest struggle would be not to constantly think about the time or how I am going to report on my practice of this discipline.  Well, my wandering mind would just generally be a problem.

Perhaps I could combine several disciplines: some lectio divina in the middle of a time of silence instead of lunch.  That might work.

3 thoughts on “Discipline

  1. Toni

    It would seem that a combination of fasting the net and silence would be the natural culmination of this blogpost. As for temptation to peek from reading emails, I’m sure you can cope with THAT without major stress.

    FWIW we (Chris and I) both find fasting a struggle, but certainly not at all insurmountable, and a lunch-only fast isn’t too difficult – said to encourage rather than belittle you. Fasting off the net is also something worth practicing regularly too.

  2. Jeff

    I hate – HATE – fasting. Which is why I should probably do it more. For Lent (which started yesterday) I’m fasting video games during the work week, as in I’ll only play on Sundays (if then).

    Fasting food is an exercise in frustration for me. I find that I get angry and resentful, and certainly can’t focus enough to pray. I think the idea behind it is to assert control over the flesh, as it were, and to rely on God for sustenance. I find it hard not to think of it as God denying me sustenance, unless I think of it as me denying me sustenance, and then I think that the only reason I had sustenance to deny myself of was because God had provided it for me, thus making me an idiot for fasting.

    Lectio Divina is great though; we should get some folks together and do it as a group.

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