Discipline

A blog by the Reverend Liz Johnson Blythe

Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most. Abraham Lincoln

Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.  Proverbs 13.24

[One] must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and disciplined. Titus 1.8

Last week the First Minister announced a regional lockdown.  As you well know, she said that those of us in Glasgow City, East Renfrewshire, and West Dumbartonshire are no longer able to go into each other’s houses.  This week the lockdown was extended to two more councils.  The reason the restrictions were put in place was because the Coronavirus is again spreading within the community and that was largely related to people having house parties.  My wee family were scheduled to go to a small birthday party for a 7 year old last weekend.  It almost didn’t happen, but then his family moved the whole party outside and the children played in a downpour and bounced on a bouncy castle and ate cake and had a great time.

I find it so very frustrating that this wee boy’s party of 5 friends almost didn’t happen because adults and young adults are not willing to follow the rules.  It seems so obvious to me, but then, I too, am want to flaunt the rules…just not that one.  I sat in a garden one evening with friends representing 4 households (rather than the current limit of three) chatting and carrying-on.  I’ve stood closer than 2m to a friend while talking outside the school gate.  My children have used a friend’s bathroom.  It’s all well and good to point fingers at others who are not keeping to the letter of the law, but how many of us could say we’ve followed it exactly. 

What we need is a little discipline.

Growing up, I understood discipline to be along the lines of Proverbs 13.24.  It was a, seemingly (sometimes truly), harsh mandate from a person in power to someone without power. 

Somewhere along the way I learned about the disciplines of monks and nuns.  I thought of that kind of discipline as a cattle fence – keeping the members of the orders contained so that they could serve God.  It wasn’t until I was an adult, or near enough, that I came upon the concept of discipline as a way of life – an action or set of actions undertaken to pursue an end.  Really, it’s discipline as practice.  Until then, I thought of, say, playing my French Horn took discipline because you had keep at it.  I didn’t see the actual practice as valuable beyond learning my lines for the next day.  It is a choosing to do in order to move towards a goal, not simply as a means to an end, but as an important act in an of itself.  But discipline is a way of life. Discipline is a way of life to which we need to commit in the time of Corona.

It’s been easy to break the rules of lockdown now that they have been relaxed.  As the rules have relaxed many of us have taken more liberties.  As we see others taking liberties (cheers for the eye test, Dominic Cummings!), we’re more likely to take them, ourselves.  And as others see us taking liberties, they are more likely to take them, too.  But now we must recommit ourselves to this giant group project. 

We must work together, not on the off chance you could threaten your neighbour’s granny, but because it is an act of faith.  Titus puts discipline on par with devotion, hospitality, and goodness.  Discipline is a process through which our faith is refined – in this case our service to others is writ across our whole lives as we make choices to keep people we may never have met, people we may never know, safe.

It is all too easy to get caught up in frustration over the restrictions, especially as they are being tightened after being relaxed, but there is an end goal, shalom – that is, health and wellbeing for ourselves, for our families, for our friends, for our neighbours, and, indeed, for strangers.

Let’s be as Abraham Lincoln encouraged and look to the end goal of all of us making it through the winter well and healthy, rather on our more immediate wants.

Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted ; support the weak; help the afflicted; honour all people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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