Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Journey - A Chronicle of Discipline

I grew up on the Prairies.  The land rolls  on and on, adorned with combines, barbed wire fences and miles of cropland.  On one side, the fields seem to crumple and burst into mountains, like rumpled covers on my bed, bringing a sense of disruption into an otherwise smooth terrain.

Today I thought about the life of a farmer.  If I were to stare at my naked field in the spring, and begin to imagine all the hungry people who needed me to provide wheat for bread, and how I must turn this soil into food for thousands, I would be feeling a great deal of responsibility.  Before I know it, my imaginary field is littered with people, all hungry; all with their hands reaching towards me, eyes wide and accusing - waiting for me to provide.

If I focus on the goal of farming: simply that I must produce wheat for bread, I may get lost in the enormous responsibility.  For indeed, my long-term perspective states that in order to be a profitable, successful farmer, I must turn my cash into a crop and the crop into cash, BUT, there are many steps along the way.  Any good farmer knows that growing things take time.  You cannot produce overnight - no matter what people may demand of you, and no matter how responsible you feel to provide.  The field must be made ready; soil tilled and enriched with manure, fertilizer.  The seeds must be buried in the dark earth, hidden away.  Then, through a period of darkness and light, rain and sun, wind and calm - the little plants grow, and are brought to maturity for harvest.  The job of the farmer is to adhere to the schedule of plating, fertilizing, irrigating (if needed) and... waiting.

Discipline seems much the same way.  Take for example my goals in parenting.  It is daunting to think of what I dream I could have with my children - amazing relationships full of deep, meaningful conversations throughout their teen years, spanning into their journey to adulthood.  I won't settle for anything less!  I'm not just here to "raise" them, feed them, clothe them and the like - I want to KNOW them and connect to them.  So, that is my goal; my harvest is true relationship and companionship with my grown kids.  Therein lies the panic.  I jump ahead in my mind, thinking of what I must become and how far I have to go; how much work must be exerted, how much time, energy and effort I ought to apply to achieve healthy, above-and-beyond relationships.

I don't slow down to see the steps.  Plant a seed, water it, wait....  Plant another seed: a kind word, considerate actions, sensitivity... water with grace and encouragement, wait patiently... and they grow.

The discipline is in the waiting.  The commitment to discipline comes from questioning the goals - is it worth it? and then discerning "how do I do it?".  I take tiny, concentrated baby steps.  A cherry seed planted won't be a fragrant, blossoming cherry tree overnight.  I can't become an endurance runner simply by desiring to run a marathon (or half-marathon).  I speak from experience... progress is slow - you take your first step, then each step becomes another city block that you've run, and more steps turn into another mile, until, one day after much persistence and discipline, you run the race!  I didn't sit and dream of being a runner - and after much thought, introspection and pondering was suddenly able to run a long distance!  It is not the thought or desire that gets you to your destination, but the dedication and commitment - the daily grind.

You cannot reach what you have not set your sights upon.  Each journey requires a destination.  But today I wanted to address the issue of self-doubt, frustration, fear and the common question: Can I even do it? Will I ever make it?  I ask myself these questions often. 

The trail winds; a path that seems under construction with numerous detours, speed traps and uneven pavement with a sharp shoulder that reminds me of the highway from Hope to home (this is a real road - one of the mountain roads between British Columbia and southern Alberta!).  It's an uphill, steep, treacherous mountain road with a toothpick of a guardrail between you and the edge of a cavernous valley.  Often the passenger in our family vehicle, I've stared down the gaping, hungry hole of rocks and deathly steep descent, thinking - praying, really: "God keep our vehicle on the road!"  We maneuver the curves and bends along the way - the hills and valleys, and then, suddenly it all smooths out, and we're back in our territory - the flat, utterly smooth and barren prairies with only the howling wind for company.

Sometimes you have to take life and cut it down to bite-sized pieces in order to keep yourself from gagging and choking.  You can't become a great parent, spouse, runner, businessman, leader, or even friend overnight - but it is applying the right attitude, coupled with the right actions, day by day, little by little that leads you to success.  The discipline is in the journey; living with foresight and committing to little steps even on the "bad days" and the "dreary days".

The deep, dark soil is rich and baby plants have sprouted - some more quickly than others.  Daily I will water, nourish and tend to my crop - investing into the lives entrusted into my care.  I won't give up on the outcome - but I'll wait, knowing that the harvest is inevitable.

(My beginning thoughts on discipline can be found in this previous post: A Discipline Craving.)

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