About a month ago I received a belated fiftieth birthday present: a prescription for an ACE inhibitor (Lisinopril) for hypertension/high blood pressure. Because of this daily reminder of bodily deterioration, I have had to establish a new routine – every morning I take my pill before I do anything else. By maintaining this pattern, I don’t give a second thought to whether or not I have already taken it (although there are times that I still think I might have forgotten to take it, only to be reassured that I must have taken it at the start of my day). It is this type of personal discipline that will improve my overall well-being.
Now, if only I could maintain some discipline in other areas of life. How much better would my well-being be if I simply had the discipline to eat less at mealtimes and much less at other times? How much better would my day be if I added one hundred steps or a few flights of stairs to my daily exercise regimen? How much better would my health be if I committed to reducing stress and increasing my sleep? My hesitation arises from the knowledge that any beneficial discipline will require an amount of denial and denying myself is frequently painful.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)
The writer of Hebrews expresses the positive benefits of discipline – the production of righteousness and peace – and I have to wonder if a few extra bites, a few more snacks, a few quicker trips, a few more minutes of vacuous television is worth what is being forfeited. Just as I take something to control my blood pressure (and, I hope, extend my life expectancy to see my eight-year old’s wife and children), I need to practice other disciplines to procure an opportunity to live strongly as a good steward of the physical body I have been given by God.
And why stop at God’s gift of my physical health? What about my relational health, my intellectual health and my spiritual health? There are disciplines I ought to incorporate for my relational well-being (such as holding my tongue more frequently than I am now), my intellectual well-being (like reading something from a dead author instead of watching television) and my spiritual well-being (maybe spending an hour in silence instead of being surrounded by technology). Perhaps there is wisdom in the words attributed to a number of great thinkers:
“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
If I believe that the practice of discipline will produce righteousness and peace (and I do), and if I can develop the pattern of thinking about these promises instead of the initial pain (and I can), perhaps I will begin communicating these promises and living better to the point in my life where I am no longer thinking about what I have surrendered. Then all that initial pain will give way to pleasure as I am afforded opportunity to spontaneously do things I would not have had the ability to do had I forgone the discipline in the first place.
All this heavy thinking has made me hungry…but I can wait until mealtime.