Friday, December 24, 2004

Rods and Ties

Discipline. Often a bit of a dirty word. It conjures up images of parental restriction, beatings, or a plain or painful lifestyle.

Disciple. A religious word, used much in Christian circles - but what does it really mean?

Only a few days ago I was struck with the similarity of these two words when breaking into Proverbs to take a look at the subject of discipline, since I realised that was one area of my life that needed a lot of work.

It came up that there are two types of discipline - external and internal. The internal kind is preferable. It is the law that one has within oneself and keeps one safe and prosperous. However, it's not possible to possess the internal variety without having experienced the external kind (or suffered much under the consequences of living without discipline).

Pondering this I was then reminded of young plants, the design for which is to grow along a certain pattern and become healthy and fruitful. To train those plants they are tied to stakes, fences or trellises so that they are forced to grow according to the pattern of the gardener. Eventually they will adopt the pattern of growth needed and outgrow their need to be tied in to the pattern, needing only to be trimmed and cut back on occasion.

That, it occurred to me, is discipline. It is also, I think, 'discipleship'. To be a disciple is to bind oneself to Christ, that we grow according to His pattern until we become like Him. It is not the freedom to do as one pleases and grow where one may, occasionally inviting the gardener to trim here and there. It is a total commitment to the person and life of Christ. To submit oneself to Him and allow Him to dictate the pattern and image of life.

It's not an easy thing. At times it's not a very nice thing. It does mean restrictions. It does mean denial. However it also means beauty, fruitfulness and satisfaction, and the freedom from those things at the base level which will only choke and infect.

"Buy the truth and do not sell it;

get wisdom, discipline and understanding."

"Like a city whose walls are broken down

is a man who lacks self-control."