Every season when the Olympics appear on our television, I think the same thought: “I wish I did anything as well as they do their thing.” And then I sit and watch. Or I come in here and write. Or I take a nap. When the thought came this year, I was rereading The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard.
Willard suggests that we often look at the cool things Jesus did and we think, “”I wish I did anything as well as Jesus did being Jesus.” But we look at the hard things he demands and we think, “I could never do that.”
In the first chapter, Willard considers Jesus’s invitation to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Willard suggests that the way Jesus lived, and the way those who followed him lived, resulted not from trying to do great things but from living a life.
These three excerpts capture Willard’s argument:
- “A successful performance at a moment of crisis rests largely and essentially upon the depths of a self wisely and rigorously prepared in the totality of its being–mind and body.” p 4.
- “The general human failing is to want what is right and important, but at the same time not to commit to the kind of life that will produce the action that we we know to be right and the condition we want to enjoy. …We intend what is right, but we avoid the life that would make it reality.” p 6.
- “The secret of the easy yoke is simple, actually. It is the intelligent, informed, unyielding resolve to live as Jesus lived in all aspects of his life, not just in the moment of specific choice or action.” p 10.
When I wrote the ebook Lent For Non-Lent People last year, it was to gather some of my writing on prayer and Sabbath and choosing to live a life that gives up what distracts for the sake of what gives life. Just last week, I published it as a paperback as well. If you want some training wheels for Lent, for some ways to think about the idea of discipline, you may find it helpful. And Lent starts with Ash Wednesday on March 5.
For the rest of this week, we’re going to look at one impossible thing Jesus says: “Love your enemies.”
(For my UK friends, Lent For Non-Lent People)