Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spiritual Self-Discipline

I've always really admired those people who can get up at 4am and get a lot of stuff done before the sun even rises. I remember a girl in college who would rise at 4:30 in order to practice flute for an hour, do homework, exercise, eat a real breakfast, etc. Holy cow.

I really, really wish I could do that. When I express this desire to Matt, he takes the opportunity to remind me how (ever-reluctantly) Wesleyan I am. John Wesley rose early in order to spend hours in prayer and study, and said something to the effect of "keep a faithful account of every productive thing you do all day." I think of that whenever I write something on my planner after it has already happened. Yes, in that we share a crazy Type-A love of organization and control, I am Wesleyan.

I think all the time about how I want to set the alarm for 5:00 and get out of bed promptly when it goes off. I would make coffee and sit on the back patio, reading scripture and communing with God. Then I would shower and get Kate up and make my lunch and leave the house with enough time to drive breezily for 40 minutes and then sit in gridlock for 20 more, getting to work before 8:00.  But I can’t do it.

I consider myself a morning person, in that I could never sleep till noon (or even 10) and once I am up, I am chipper and active. Nonetheless, my natural, unassisted waking time is still about 7:15 (on the rare occasion I get to sleep until rising "naturally"). So, I hit snooze several times when my alarm goes off at 5:45 or 6:00 each morning. I get confused when it's the baby monitor making noise, rather than the radio, and yet I still instinctively reach for the snooze button.

I feel frustrated with myself, because I really admire self-discipline, and wish I had more of it. I'm a big multi-tasker, and I love productivity, but multitasking is actually less productive, so I've read. While busyness feels productive, one really wastes time by shifting gears frequently. I need to focus, but that feels hard to do.  I have to fight the urge to switch tasks, to click on other windows open on my desktop, editing a page before checking email and then planning a layout and then looking at my to-do list to see if I've completed any one thing yet! Over the course of the day, I get a lot done, but all in bits and pieces! What could I do if I stopped all the multitasking?

I find that I even multitask my prayer life. I chat with God while driving home, read a scripture or written prayer in passing, etc. But when I actually stop. . .  to read, pray, ponder my surroundings… my blood pressure immediately drops. My body relaxes, my mind slows down. It's not so much about what I say. . . even better if I say nothing at all. I notice little things like the way an ant crawls or the way the sun rises so gradually that you barely notice it happening. I can connect with God in a way I can't while being so busy with other things.

I don't have to get up at 4am to do it, but I do have to be intentional about it. I have to choose to stop everything else so that I can focus on God,  just sit . . . and be.

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