If you haven’t read my previous blog posts about my journey in discipline this year, I would recommend starting by reading my introductory blog here, as well as my other update blogs which you can find listed here.
The Discipline of Celebration
This year for me has been one full of ups and downs, victories and failures, and throughout it all there has been a singular theme: he just wants my heart. All of these disciplines that I’ve studied and practiced are wonderful tools that we should all put time and energy towards, but they are all a means to an end – to know God, and to be known by him.
As this year comes to a close, I celebrate my completion of this challenge in discipline, but there’s so much more to celebrate. In this season in particular, we get to celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Messiah, surrounded by those we love. We celebrate the beginning of a new year, bringing fresh vision, motivation and hope for what’s to come. We celebrate the presence and nearness of God in our lives currently, as well as the future culmination of this story that we’re all a part of where Jesus returns to fulfill his promise and bring to completion the redemption of his creation.
Even with all these beautiful reasons to celebrate, we seldom allow ourselves to freely celebrate in joy. And even when we do celebrate, it can often feel artificial and empty. Maybe this is due to the distractions and challenges we all have with responsibilities and relationships. Maybe we’ve been trained to think of celebration as a waste of time, money or energy. Or maybe we think celebrating is only for children, and we don’t want to be seen as fools. In any case, I believe we need fresh vision as a body of believers for the importance of celebration.
This discipline of celebration is central to success in any of the other areas of discipline that Richard Foster writes about in Celebration of Discipline. He says, “Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees” (p.191). Those are strong words, but as I reflect on times that I’ve tried to practice any of the spiritual disciplines that are meant to bring me into deeper freedom without a genuine joy, those very disciplines become heavy chains that weigh me down, hold me back, and cause me to look inwardly instead of focusing on Jesus, who it’s actually all about.
Now it’s one thing to talk about the importance of joy, and another thing entirely to actually walk in it. Foster makes it quite clear, however, that the path to joy is in and through obedience. “Without obedience joy is hollow and artificial” (p.192). Foster goes on to say that as “the power that is in Jesus reaches into our work and play and redeems them, there will be joy where once there was mourning” (p.193). Though choosing to make obedience the way you live your life is challenging, it leads to great joy and deeper intimacy with Jesus as you choose to say yes to him time and time again.
Just as we choose obedience, we can choose joy. We can choose to take our eyes off the things that are wrong or what we don’t have and be thankful to God for what he’s given us. As we choose to live and think this way, Foster writes that “the healing and redemption in Christ will break into the inner recesses of our lives and relationships, and the inevitable result will be joy” (p.195).
As we develop and practice this discipline of celebration inwardly, it overflows from us into corporate celebration. This can look like laughing, dancing and singing praises to God. It could take form as pure creativity, dreams and fantasy. Foster writes “Let’s with abandon relish the fantasy games of children. Let’s see visions and dream dreams. Let’s play, sing, laugh” (p.198). In addition to those more abstract forms of celebration, we can also breath fresh life into the things we celebrate all the time, like birthdays, graduations, and holidays. Even this incredibly joyous occasion of Christmas could use a new level of true joy and celebration.
The truth is that we all have something to celebrate, every single day. Jesus has come and rescued us from our sin and separation from our Father, the veil has been torn, and now we can be in relationship with our Creator for eternity with no more barriers. We are seen. We are free. We are loved.
This year God has reframed my view on the disciplines, but most of all he’s reframed my view of myself. Every day, he’s been patient with my failures and celebrated my successes with me, continually drawing me deeper into a relationship that’s more real and authentic then I have ever known before. Lies have been stripped away, fears have been conquered, and in their place there’s peace, joy and freedom. The “Door to Liberation”, as Richard Foster would call it, has been opened for me through these disciplines, and now I get to walk through that door, hand in hand with my Father, continuing this journey with him until the day that I get to see him face to face.
Whether you’re reading one of my blogs for the first time today, or you’ve been following along since the beginning, I want to thank you for being a part of this journey with me. It may not have looked like I wanted or expected this year, but it’s been exactly what I needed. He is faithful.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” -Ephesians 3:20-21