A long obedience in the same direction
I was encouraged by my former boss to read this book by Eugene Peterson. Although I've never been a strong supporter of the Message Bible that Eugene Peterson paraphrased I did however respect the thoughtfulness and theological mind that he possessed. So I set out on this journey to read this book and look at a different perspective on discipleship.
When I was younger I wanted to play guitar. I worked all summer and saved up enough money to buy my first guitar. My Grandfather (who played guitar) and I went to a music store and with his help I bought my first guitar. My grandfather began to teach me how to play guitar by listening to old Chuck wagon gang tapes, and he would tell me the chord changes to form rhythm. He also gave me a Mel Bays guitar book that I was supposed to practice with every day for at least half an hour every day for a year. The first couple of weeks, I hated that Mel Bay's book. But before long I was practicing more consistently and getting better in chord modulations and my rhythms got better. Practicing what I didn't like made me better. Getting better made me like what I was practicing. This is Discipleship: Practice
Eugene Peterson writes In the book A long obedience in the same direction.
"I don’t know what it has been like for pastors in other cultures and previous centuries, but I am quite sure that for a pastor in Western culture at the dawn of the twenty-first century, the aspect of the world that makes the work of leading Christians in the way of faith most difficult is what Gore Vidal has analyzed as “today’s passion for the immediate and the casual.” Everyone is in a hurry… [Western Christians] are impatient for results. They have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist and only want the high points. But a pastor is not a tour guide… The Christian life cannot mature under such conditions and in such ways.
Friederich Nietzsche, who saw this area of spiritual truth at least with great clarity, wrote, “The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” It is this “long obedience in the same direction which the mood of the world does so much to discourage."
Those words, written in 1980, are even more true today aren’t they? I want a small tweak that will make me a whole new man. I want a quick read that will make me wise. A three-minute song that will give me intimacy with or revelation from God. Three steps to well-behaved kids. A fight, not marriage counseling. I want a devotion, not a bible study. A retreat weekend, not a life of early rising for silence, study and prayer. A Sunday service, not an all-week community of shared accountability, time and resources.
I want to be more like Jesus, to think and love and live like Jesus…without doing what Jesus did. Without putting in the time and effort.
Honestly? Because I don’t feel like it.
Feelings are great liars. If Christians worshipped only when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship. We think that if we don’t feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting. Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship.
This is discipleship: Practice. There will be times in the Christian's life that you are not going to feel like getting up early to pray and read His Word. But discipleship is often pressing on because you know what the character it produces. If you cheat in your discipleship you will compromise in other aspects of your life. Man doesn't naturally drift toward God but drift away from Him. The long obedience in the same direction is staying the course; being persistent until you get consistent.