I absolutely love the fall. I love it because of what the season represents - a falling away of the old things of the year and a making room for the new. I love it because the weather cools down, and for just a moment (in Texas), the sun is still shining while the breezes blow cool air. Nothing beats the feeling of warmth inside tinged with a cool bite on your skin. I love it because when it rains, like it is now, I can bundle up on the couch listening to the sounds of the raindrops tapping on the window and skipping through the puddles.
I love change. It can be difficult at times, but I love it, and I love the results it brings. Regina Spektor says in one of her songs that "leaves become most beautiful when they're about to die." I love that process.
I think fall provokes a looking back. Reflection. I think just like New Years is important to look forward hopefully and expectantly, fall is vital preparation for this. You can't move ahead without learning where you're coming from.
This spring I wrote my own New Year's Revolution. I had a list of goals to accomplish, so let's see how I did:
1. wake up early
Check. I've been waking up really early recently, but I would say my average wake-up time for this year would be between 6:30 and 7:30. Recently, this time has moved to 5, but I'm finding that Benjamin Franklin was right: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."
2. work out at least 3 times a week
Check. I started doing this consistently in January and kept it up pretty well until now. When I started training for my triathlon in July this became almost daily, and I've continued this training schedule except for a 2 week hiatus which I'll discuss soon.
3. do something active once a day
4. memorize more scripture
....check. I hesitate because this has started in the past few weeks. It's hard for me to discipline myself here, but I'm trying to be faithful because the rewards are great. Psalm 1 says blessed is the man who meditates day and night on the law.
5. run a 1/2 marathon
I still have yet to do this. I did, however, do a triathlon, and am currently training for a marathon. If I complete that, this won't be so important anymore.
6. think on Jesus more
This has happened as a result of other things on this list. More about that in later paragraphs.
7. cook at home more
Check! This has been wonderful, fun, nutritious, etc. I eat simply (no extravagant recipes), but I enjoy spending time with the roommates, trying to get Tiffany to eat veggies with me, and just being at home.
8. write more
I'm still working through this one, but hey! It's still October! I have two more months to the end of the year.
9. read more
Check. Also a recent addition to my schedule, but a change nonetheless.
10. be quiet more
Definitely check. I love the quiet solitude of eating alone and reading, or wandering through a bookstore for two hours by myself. I like running by myself, where all I can hear are my feet hitting the ground.
I don't think we hold ourselves accountable enough. I think we should use the fall to pull out our resolutions/revolutions and see how we're doing. The last part of my resolution was the most important one to me: I wanted to learn discipline and grace, two things that seem opposing. I have been so blessed because the Lord has shown me how it really works.
Discipline leads to an understanding of grace and freedom.
How? Well I stumbled across my answer when I started training myself physically. For four years of college I have been "busy" or so I thought. This summer I had two jobs, took 7 hours, and trained every day. And I wasn't swamped, I still had a social life, and slept 7-8 hours a night. Unbelievable? Maybe. But it's reality for me, everyday.
I have discovered that being disciplined leaves little to no room for ungodliness. I have a hunch that Paul was an athlete on some level. He spoke about physical training so much. One of my favorite passages is in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
"I beat my body." His harsh words almost astonish me, but I understand now. I think we separate the physical and the spiritual aspects of life, and I believe Paul knew that they are not different. Our body is a temple for the Holy Spirit. I think there are differences between spiritual disciplines and physical disciplines, but I have found that one leads to the other in my life. For me, leading a highly disciplined life is key, and I don't feel confined, rather, I feel very free.
The two weeks after my triathlon I stopped training, I ate horrible foods, and I stayed up late because I thought, "Well I'm free now, so I can do what I want." I was miserable. I didn't feel good, I wasn't motivated, my spiritual life suffered because I was lazy with my time, and this list could go on. I realized that I was free when I had a bed-time, when I woke up early, ate healthy food, exercised, and organized my schedule in a reasonable way. My days were full, but I didn't feel busy and I wasn't stressed out. It was amazing to realize that my "strict training" was giving me freedom and joy. This freedom leads me to realize the Lord's presence, make good use of my time, as well as set goals for me to reach.
Who would have thought that freedom comes from discipline? And not the kind of discipline put on me by someone else, and most certainly not the kind of legalism or discipline I place on people around me. That does not bring freedom. It is only the discipline practiced by myself, under the umbrella of Jesus and his word, that brings freedom.
How sweet it is to experience the kind of freedom that grows you and spurs you on.