Discipline & Discipleship
After bible study last night and readings from the Letter or St. James, I was privy to a "gut check" that I know God personally provides from time to time. In the first chapter of his letter, James talks about the value of trials and temptation in the grand scheme of our faith and how they can and will be used to strengthen our ties to God if our faith persists despite the trials we may face. While this reading served as a personal challenge to the way I have been living my life as of late, I also recognized it for what it was; God knocking on the door of my heart, urging me to evaluate my obedience to him versus to the ways of this world.
Tyler asked us all to define obedience. For me it means a level of loyalty and listening to the one giving the commands or dictating the one who is meant to obey. To me this is an expression of our Discipleship to Christ; in being obedient to Him we strive to live as He instructs us to and respond to His calls and demands in our lives. That being said, there are certainly times where we fall short of God's call to obedience and sometimes our own standards of living our lives close to Him. In these instances I find myself always aware that God is still with me, urging me to turn front my ways and come back to Him, but this whole scenario leads me to think on this whole notion of obedience to the Lord and obeying His will. Knowing that it comes in far too many forms and there are way too many variables to name to discuss it all here, I will try to just convey my take on it after a few experiences of this kind. Right now I am enjoying a cushy and material-rich life, to be totally honest. Still living at home with my dad certainly has its challenges but it comes with plentiful benefits too; free food, a roof over my head, access to his financial and other forms of support, a "home base" and safety net in the house I grew up in where neighbors, friends and family are virtually all around me, and the ability to own and maintain two cars (one essentially just for pleasure) while making a good income and not having to worry about larger bills such as utilities and a mortgage. This is vastly different compared to how I lived my life when I did my year of service in Camden, the year where I felt closest to God and leaned on Him and relied on Him more than I ever gave, only to trap plentiful benefits from that too. Til the day I die I will stand convinced that God called me to that year of service, and He further called me to be in Camden doing it. I knew that then and I still know it now. In that instance, I took the largest me of faith I ever have, trusting in God totally that the program and location were the right fits for me and what He wanted for me. And I said, with that obedience came a multitude of benefits, some that the know I won't even fully enjoy until the end if my days, where I can enjoy eternal paradise with so many beautiful people who I encountered during my time there. This year to me was the pinnacle of my obedience and the true formation of my lifelong Discipleship. But here I stand, waiting on a delivery to a high-end business in downtown Boston, making good money for it, pursuing multiple romantic romantics, and I have to say, while I still keep God in my daily life, while I still pray often and give alms and have a heart for justice, the poor and the marginalized, I have to look in the mirror now more often than before. I have to self-check and make sure I remember who my Lord is. If He were to call me back to a place like Camden tomorrow, would I accept?
It takes a lot of discipline to be a disciple. It requires gut checks from God and self-evaluation and the ability to contemplate, meditate, self-evaluate, and be moved into action. While I don't doubt the way of my discipleship currently, I know I need to keep doing those things to keep being a disciple, to keep being obedient in the best way that I know how. This is essential to the Christian life; this ability to look inward and outward, to look at God and let God look at you, and to continue fostering a relationship that leads to bearing fruit for the unending, unfailing Vine. We must be wary of judging ourselves too harshly, and trying to be God in our own lives, though, and being tempted to measure ourselves up with a standard that we are in no position to hold ourselves to. As James said, "temptations do not come from God", so we must always consider the source when we start to think or feel we are less than. Regardless of our level of obedience or disobedience, we must remember who our loving God is, and that at the drop of a hat, after we have squandered our inheritance, lived in a foreign land without writing home for a decade, and done nothing to honor or respect our Creator- even in this extreme case- our God comes running to us with open arms as soon as we say, "I want to come back."
Andrew Staiti, Storyteller