The Lenten Season gives us opportunity to reflect on who Christ is and examine our hearts as we prepare for Easter. During Lent, many practice fasting, self-denial, or increased acts of service. It is a time to repent of our sin and receive forgiveness. The ultimate goal is heart transformation – as we enter into Christ’s suffering, we become more like him. This year, we offer this Lenten blog series as a way to help you become closer to Jesus. Each post will reflect on a different spiritual discipline – some inward, others outward; some individual, others corporate. May these spiritual practices facilitate God’s formation of your soul. Today’s post was written by Sarah Bartley, one of our church members. It is heavily inspired by Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline.
Many will say they want a more equitable world. Others long for kinder, more neighborly communities. How do we get there? From your seat in the diverse orchestration of life, how can you become an instrument tuned to play beautiful melodies of mercy?
The answer has to do with the spiritual discipline of submission, or, the practice of putting others first. While submission can be a loaded term, think of living a cross-life. While Jesus’ pinnacle act of humility was dying a cross-death (Phil 2:8), he also lived a cross-life and called his followers to the same (Mark 8:34). Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control: these are the language of the cross-life (Gal 5:22-23).
In the daily grind, it’s easy to live as if happiness comes from self-discovery, fleeing people who “pull us down,” and making our own dreams come true. Consider how it feels when you don’t get your own way; when you aren’t heard; when you don’t live-up to expectations. This is bondage. The cross-life is liberation to a different path.
Freedom begins with a fresh realization that all the meaning and value you hope for is already yours. You are loved unconditionally and proven valuable; though flawed, forgiven. Rather than learning to love yourself, you discover that loving what God loves includes both yourself and others.
Though at peace, the cross-life is not lazy. Submission inspires big dreams; it compels greater creativity and passion when ambition is reoriented toward bringing your Father God joy. But the discipline itself is practiced in mundane, day-to-day activities as much as in big life-decisions. Daily practice allows the Holy Spirit to nurture a yielded heart.
Your first daily act of submission is to God. Your second is allowing the Holy Spirit to apply Scripture in your life. A daily practice is critical there. Nevertheless, this spiritual discipline can be spontaneous. Take a moment now to think about the needs, concerns, and joys of people in each of the following realms. Is there one way you can put those ahead of your own?
- At home
- At work or in your neighborhood
- In your church community
- Those with less status or fewer resources (James 1:27); elevating others without expectation or method of repayment
- The world – taking to heart creation care and the needs and concerns of people whose cultural experiences are different from yours.