In the past year I bought a Ford Focus. While this isn’t really news, it provided me a glimpse into the meaning of the Spiritual Disciplines. I know, nice segue.
When I bought the Focus, I had been driving for almost 34 years. This is 34 years with the gas cap on the left side of the car. I think there was a time when I was driving a Pontiac LeMans (I wish I had that car again) where the tank was behind the license plate, but that one didn’t matter what side of the pump I pulled up to.
With the Focus, each time I pulled up to the pump I would get out and realize I had pulled up to the wrong side. It was frustrating. I would get back in the car, drive around to the other side of the pump and get my gas. After about a week, I started to pull up to the correct side but I always had to think about it before I got there. If I didn’t, I would pull up on the more familiar and comfortable side and then get back in the car, drive around, and get my gas.
The other day I had just stopped for gas before I went home. When I got home, Ruth asked me if I would take her car and gas it up. No problem. When I got to the station, I went to pre-pay (after dark) and walked out to the pump. Only then did I realize that I had pulled up on the wrong side. Right then I knew I had overcome my habit. It was now natural for me to pull with the pump on my right instead of the left.
That is what the Spiritual Disciplines do. They help us to get our systems rewired for transformation. When we start with new Disciplines we often get frustrated with how difficult they are for us. We forget that we are working against what feels natural and normal for us. Even as the disciplines get more natural we often fail. Frustration can well up or we can quit. But if we are willing to stick with it, without a time frame for our expected results, it will happen.
One day the anger we worked so hard to surrender to the Holy Spirit is gone. Our lust, greed, envy, self-centeredness, and a host of other un-Christlike qualities are consumed by the Spirit and we are eventually free. Free to live in a way that is naturally like Jesus.
Life will still be a challenge. We will still have to make difficult decisions. But we will not be fighting against the Spirit but working with the Spirit instead.
Who knew a gas cap could remind me of the importance of the disciplines?