Running With Horses: Building Endurance, Practicing Discipline
6 minute read
a : systematic exercise for proficiency
b : the condition of being proficient through systematic exercise
Developing discipline has always been a struggle for me. Growing up, I could quit better than anyone I knew. There were many reasons for my mastery of The Quit including fear of failure, fear of commitment, laziness, entitlement, no true concept of self-worth, and as crazy as it sounds - fear of succeeding.
What (slowly) pulled me out of that rut was the excruciating experience of suddenly losing family member after family member over the past four years. Some of their lives had been poured out in service and purpose. I could look at their legacy and say, "They lived well." Others I grieved because they hadn't tapped into even a tenth of their potential and purpose before they closed their eyes. It made me stop and consider myself.
If I could recognize others' potential how in the heck was I realizing my own? How was I moving toward destiny?
I wasn't. Pots and kettles, I tell ya. Talk about a spiritual chin check. It's a little trippy how examining others' lives points us right back to areas of our own that we often try our best to ignore.
Follow-through and consistency are the two virtues that always seemed to escape me. I'd start out so well with the clear intention to finish any number of projects but end up with a sentence here, half a painting there, only the outline of a business plan, etc. Developing discipline required a patience I didn't have but absolutely needed if anything about my life trajectory, my complete story was going to be worthwhile. I needed it, absolutely but had no idea where to start. If I'm 100% real, I was afraid to start. Sure I had dreams, gifts, and talents. Who doesn't? But where was I to begin? I kept reading about creating a daily practice, a morning practice, a spiritual practice. Great, I'll start a practice. (Shout out to Melanin Habits.)
I decluttered my space, set my alarm to wake early to pray, eat a decent breakfast, journal, and work out. This was going to be great. A piece of pie. I was changing my life... only to find myself still in bed, hitting the snooze button and scrolling my Twitter and Facebook news feeds distracted by jokes and world news and hashtags and annoyed with myself for succumbing to distraction...again.
I made to-do lists upon to-do lists but over time checking things off those lists started to become the goal. I just wanted to DO a bunch of something. Anything. One day, I looked up and realized I had mastered the appearance of discipline but was just as lost as any person could be. I could PREPARE to be productive like nobody's business but I was quitting every time real follow through was required. And this was JUST establishing a daily practice - the first step!
The passage above is a response from God to the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament. Jeremiah had just finished ranting to God about how his enemies were persecuting him, asking God, "How long do I have to do this, Man?!" But God's response was so boss. Here's why: In ancient times, royalty and dignitaries were transported by carriage. Footmen ran/walked alongside the carriages to ensure the carriage didn't get caught on anything and to make sure nothing on the road tipped the carriage. Footmen also ran ahead of the carriage to prepare the destination for their lord/lady or the person whom they served. Their work was tiring but it was no match for literal horsepower. (There's a TON of stuff in that alone but that's for another blog post.)
Was God telling Jeremiah he was literally going to have to outrun horses? No. God was basically telling Jeremiah, "What you're dealing with right now, is light compared to the great work ahead of you. If you can't do THIS, if you can't handle this light work what are you going to do in the presence of a true test?"
So what do you do when the PREPARATION phase wearies you? How do you get out of the rut? How do you stop spinning your wheels? How do you begin to build endurance?
For me, it took a good, brutally honest self-pep talk:
It's time to change your life. You've known it for a while. You've prayed for it but you haven't truly put your hand to the plow. Who are you kidding? What have you changed? What about your current lifestyle demonstrates commitment? This is only the beginning. You haven't even reached the rough stuff yet! You're looking at God to do something and God is looking at you.
Are you afraid? Good.
Are others where you want to be? Good.
Are you unsure of exactly where you're going? Good.
Every excuse you have is a qualifier to be used by God, to make your life truly count. But you have to push into and through your discomfort to get there. You have got to commit something, however small it may be, in order to see results. And those results won't spring up overnight. You won't always feel like following through. In fact, most times you won't. That's where discipline is born. In the moment when you can choose between writing or wasting time on Twitter. In the moment when you can choose between seeking God's direction in prayer or hitting the snooze button. In the moment when you can choose between continuing to let life lead you around by the nose or exercise the wisdom to command your day.
But what are you ready to change? What are you ready to give up? What are you ready to give in exchange for a life overrun with the miraculous and filled to capacity with destiny?
When you get sick enough.
When you get tired enough.
You'll crawl if you have to.
Just to change your life.
Let me know when you're ready.
Nothing about our lives is truly going to change until we are brutally honest and ready to do the work. No person can inspire us enough. No coach can coach us enough. No prayer or devotional can motivate us enough if we do not commit ourselves to doing the work even when we don't feel like doing it. ESPECIALLY when we don't feel like doing it.
Click the photo below to watch Brandy's testimony about commiting to a lifestyle of endurance and discipline.