Driver's Ed Lesson 1: The Art of Self-Discipline

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I am not a good driver.

Sort of like how I hate to cook, it's something I've come to terms with. (Although, coming to terms with my lack of driving abilities has been more dangerous and expensive than coming to terms with my dislike for cooking.)

Two weeks ago, I rear-ended this guy in a parking lot as he simultaneously rear-ended me (we both later admitted to being bad drivers, so I feel justified in saying that we rear-ended each other). It was a far more upsetting moment for me than for him (who ironically is a Catholic seminarian at a school in Chicago) however, because while his bumper had barely a scratch, mine looked like I'd taken a sledgehammer to the far left corner of it.

I've since received predictable advice from my parents and friends along the lines of "slow down" and "pay attention" (uh, duh), but I've begun to suspect that maybe God is calling me to make some other changes in certain areas of my life - particularly, in the area of self-discipline.

Self-discipline is an area I've consistently fallen short in. From following a budget to studying for classes to practicing an instrument (I'm referring back to 1998 with this one - put the pieces together and you'll understand why I no longer play an instrument), I am perpetually horrible at forcing myself to do absolutely anything.

So in terms of driving, I'm often speeding, not paying sufficient attention, not thinking far enough ahead to remember to switch lanes for my exit, etc. (and now you all think I'm way scary and totally dangerous... sorry).

But the reality is that my problem is not a lack of driving ability. My problem is a lack of discipline.

Here is where I draw a blank as to what to write next... how can I fix a self-discipline problem?

The answer, of course, is by forcing myself to do things - no matter how uncomfortable I might be.

This article, posted by Darling Magazine, discusses discomfort in the context of facing our fears - however, I believe it can be applied in the exact same way to facing our immediate desires, ie: buying this top, eating this cupcake, speeding past this idiot on the road that's going 2 miles under the speed limit (I'm awful, I know).

This is where many of my struggles lie. I love to buy new clothes. I love to eat pizza, burritos, and anything sweet. I love to spend 10+ hours watching Pretty Little Liars on Netflix instead of cleaning or reading or doing just about anything else - but just because I love it doesn't mean I should do it.

I've heard that practicing self discipline is much like flexing a muscle - the more often you do it, the stronger you get at it. So assuming that acknowledgement of the problem is the first step to solving the problem, the second step must be to start flexing my self discipline muscle.

But I'd be remiss to forget that a major player in solving this problem is God; a major step in solving this problem is calling upon Him for the strength to do so.

In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, St. Paul speaks of a "thorn in his flesh" - a plight that he deeply wishes to have removed from him. So he says -

"Concerning this, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Let me not be content in my sin - rather, let me be like Paul and be content in the midst of my discomfort as I work to overcome those sins, so that God might be strong for me in the moments I am weak.

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