I am not good at self-discipline.
I tell myself that I am not good at sameness, that I like challenge and spontaneity. Really, though, I am very good at sameness, as long as that sameness is comfortable. As long as that sameness does not involve challenging myself to alter the habits I already have, I am wonderful at sameness.
I am good at projects. When I was in high school, I told my mother that I had plenty of self-discipline; I just had trouble applying it sometimes. She laughed. I didn’t find it funny. What I meant was that I could practice four hours every day for twenty-eight days in preparation for second round all-state auditions. I could write a paper or study for an exam and make a good grade. I am still like that. I can keep up with something for a week or a month. I can get assignments done for school or work. I can clean my entire apartment all at once when it gets to messy for me to stand. I am good at big things, at flashy things, at short-term things that captive all of my attention while they are going on.
I am not good at the small, daily things. I have never been good at reading my Bible daily. I have never been good at keeping up with an exercise regimen. I can’t remember to put the dishes in the dishwasher every night before I go to bed or to wake up in time to do them the next morning. I’m not good at bedtimes or grocery shopping or diets.
I am not good at consistent, sustained attention with little immediate payoff. I am not good at delayed gratification. I have taken the metaphor of the big rocks and the small rocks in the jar to its illogical extreme in that I always manage the big rocks, but I get so fascinated by them that I never remember to pour the small rocks in afterwards. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google “big rocks first jar metaphor.”)
I want to be better at this, and I’m honestly not sure how to do it. Every year, this is my New Year’s resolution. Even when I write down “Lose weight!” or “Exercise more!” or “Read the whole Bible!” what I am really writing is “Remember self-control? That fruit of the Spirit that you’re terrible at? Let’s work on that this year. Okay?” I come up with plans and schedules and chore charts and reward systems, and by the end of January, I’ve half-forgotten I even tried.
What I really want is for God to zap me and make me a more disciplined person. I want to wake up one morning and find that all of these little habits that I’ve never mastered are easy. It doesn’t happen that way. It wouldn’t really be discipline if it did.
So instead, I slog on. I make goals and rarely meet them. I make plans and rarely stick to them. But maybe, eventually, all of this trying will stick.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”