Spiritual Disciplines // STUDY & SELF EXAMINATION
I was fifteen years old when the Magnificent Seven won gold in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic Games. Millions were awed that year by the gymnastic talents of Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes, Dominique Moceanu, and especially Kerri Strugg, whose unforgettable vault made for one of the most dramatic finishes in Olympic history. (To view it, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bwa5Bf656As). The U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team had won gold for the first time in history. For weeks, I watched and re-watched the recording, awed and inspired.
Shannon Miller performing on the balance beam at the 1996 Olympic Games.
The body of a gymnast is truly a fearsome thing to behold. Those petite frames are powerfully built, each sinewy muscle visible, flexing, necessarily conditioned for performance. Through injuries, adversity, and defeat, a gymnast at the highest level must maintain fitness and focus like a well-oiled machine. I once knew a girl who studied gymnastics at age eight. Even at that young age she was practicing upwards of four hours a day. There is no such thing as a lukewarm gymnast. You’re either all in or you’re wasting your time (and a lot of your parent’s money). It takes gritty determination and years of hard work with no guarantee of success.
Grit is something our culture does not generally appreciate. We’ve been conditioned to receive our athletes fully-formed, in their prime, and to discard them when they can no longer keep up. Yet Nehemiah’s memoir reminds us that slow progress and GRIT is essential to the Christian life. As Christ-followers, we cannot expect to arrive-ever. We are always awaiting our next great stage of transformation. It doesn’t come naturally or automatically, but through the rigors of the spiritual-disciplines. We must be dedicated students.
This past week Chris quoted from Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.” The pursuits of study and self-examination PRESS us past enthusiasm and into the discomfort (some might say the boredom) of continued reading, thinking, honing, and reflecting. Study is most certainly a choice that takes GRIT to prioritize in our culture of entertainment at the click of a button. Let’s take a cue from the gymnastic greats. Let’s be reminded that it is grit, not a gold medal, that truly makes them great.
- STUDY: Read Hebrews 12:1-13. (If you can, use the NLT translation. I love how it renders verse 12.).
- Circle three key words (ie: words you see repeated in the passage or that jump out at you).
- Write down three truths from the passage.
- SELF-EXAMINATION: Re-read Hebrews 12:11. Reflect over the course of the past year. Where can you see harvest in your life as the result of discipline? Where can you see a lack of harvest as a result of lack of discipline?
- NEXT STEP: Re-read Hebrews 12:13. Choose a book to read that will inform your walk with the LORD. Make a reading plan, even if it is just a few pages a day. Hint: this can be part of your Lent fast: adding something good!
- Scandalous Witness by Lee Camp
- The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- A Creative Minority by Jon Tyson & Heather Grizzle