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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Muscle memory or new strength?

If you have ever been in the moment of discipline, you've probably thought to yourself, "Geez!  This isn't much fun!"  In fact, you probably just wanted it to end at some point!  The end is all you can see - because it is the hope of the end of discipline which seemingly brings relief.  There are many definitions of discipline ranging from training someone to act in accordance with some set of rules to a regimen that improves some skill.  Either way, it suggests work, expended effort, and some sense of endurance (the ability to "bear up under").  It is the basis of developing good habits, such as eating well or being consistent with an exercise regimen.  It is also the basis of correcting some things which just aren't "right" in our present responses, attitudes, or actions.  One develops, the other defines.  

At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.  (Hebrews 12:11 MSG)

Our writer puts is well - discipline isn't much fun!  Especially "in the moment".  I like the illustration of going against the grain - it speaks volumes!  When someone says it goes against the grain, they usually mean the action is the opposite of what is usually done.  In other words, the prudent person would not respond in a similar manner.  Some of our "against the grain" actions feel that way because we have some action, attitude or thought pattern so "ingrained" in us, anything different seems like it is against the grain (not the usual pattern we follow).  God's discipline is designed to cut across the grain, not to follow the grain!  

You know, Vince Lombardi once said, "The harder you work, the harder it is for you to surrender."  I think this statement is quite revealing.  We do hold onto patterns of "work" sometimes, don't we.  We try this or that, but somehow, we come back to what is familiar to us.  The problem is, we are the ones doing all the work - and it may just be causing the very thing we are trying to be released from to become just a little more ingrained in us!  God's discipline is aimed at getting us to let go.  You've no idea how strong you are holding onto something until God asks you to let it go!  At first, you cannot imagine any other way of acting.  Then God asks you to let go of you way of acting and you resist.  Why?  It goes against the grain!  Yet, in giving up what he asks for us to surrender, we actually see the freshness of the grain which God wants to expose!

Maturity is the result of training - not at the hand of a tyrannical God, but at the feet of the God of Grace.  Sometimes we resist change so much because we think God isn't going to allow us to "keep" something in our lives.  I honestly have not ever been asked to give up something which I really needed!  I may hold onto it for dear life at first, believing I need it, but in the end, I realize the "thing" God asked me to surrender was really nothing more than something wearing a "groove" in my character!  The "groove" became comfortable - what "rut" isn't?  You don't have to do or feel anything differently when you are in a "groove" or "rut".  But...we miss a whole lot when all we see is what we are used to seeing!

The "well-trained" are those who actually put themselves in the position of being available to the trainer!  I don't know about you, but if a personal trainer came to my house every morning, I might actually be "inspired" to do some different forms of workout than I would do on my own.  The trainer knows what I need - I see what I am comfortable doing.  He sees what a little discomfort will do to build strength, give endurance, and to create just enough tension in my life to accomplish both!  I think this is how God works through his discipline - he creates just enough tension to develop both our strength and our endurance!  He sees what we need - not what we are comfortable with!

The purpose of tension is to expose the muscles to movements they have forgotten, or are not aware they have the ability to perform.  As the trainer asks us to put a little tension on this muscle set or another, he is focusing on the tension which "cuts across the grain" of the usual tension our muscles are "familiar" with.  The familiar becomes "muscle memory" - we do it by rote.  The new movement becomes something we have to work at.  It causes us a little pain in the process because it is challenging us to do more than just live within the "memory" we have formed.  God's discipline challenges our "spiritual memory" in much the same way the personal trainer challenges our muscle memory.  It is the challenge which exposes us to new strength and endurance!  Just sayin!