Are you proactive or reactive? Do you find yourself maniacally downing the Emergen-C or Zycam after the first signs of sickness, rather than taking daily vitamins and supplements? Do you scrub at your face once a pimple emerges but choose not to systematically care for your skin on a regular basis? Do you begin a workout schedule after the holidays to shed unwanted pounds rather than control the amount of fare consumed during festivities? Do you frantically dig for Scriptures in times of crisis because you fail to commit them to memory during times of calm? If, like me, you answer with a resounding yes, you are reactive, not proactive. Though somewhat hyperbolic, these represent both the trivial and dire consequences of a reactive life course. While health, acne, and weight gain are worthy subjects to discipline and control in one's life, it is ultimately the lack of proactivity in spiritual matters that, in time, precipitate the greatest consequences. When the residue is cleared away from my tough days, discouraging circumstance, or discontented heart, what is left to reckon with is a heart that struggles to die to self and live unto Christ. This is not to say that trials and struggles are not real in my life, only that trials and struggles reveal insufficient preparation and fortification to withstand the tests. The reality is that oftentimes I find that I have allowed myself to haphazardly react to difficulty rather than fight regularly in proactive defense. The apostle Paul says, "but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." (1 Cor. 9:27) I have been under the conviction, this past week, that I do not wage war against my sin while clinging to the sufficiency of the cross. Instead, I often cling to my own flesh and comfort, finding that I have little strength to wage the war against doubt, fear, and pride in difficult circumstances.
My husband Troy gave this analogy on Sunday, while preaching on lust: We go out into our gardens of sin, and manicure and tend to them each day, cutting and pruning the sinful growth so that others might not see; yet, we ought to whack them out completely. I've since come up with another analogy that bears even greater resemblance to my daily experience: As moms we have grown accustom to regularly doing loads of laundry for the family. Our children don't stand at the door naked in the mornings with not a scrap to wear because we have failed to provide clean clothes. Yet, the way I often go about my spiritual discipline is as if I rarely did the laundry, but went around day to day with a Tide pen or spot cleaning rag. The clothes may seem tolerable and kept for the undiscerning eye, but sooner or later, the clothes reek. It seems unthinkable in my household routine, yet this is how I sometimes engage spiritual disciplines.
I'm not usually one for long drawn out analogies, but these thoughts hit me so sideways this last week. A condition of spiritual reactivity rather than proactivity made for fertile breeding ground for discontentment, discouragement, and sinful attitudes in my heart. It is by Grace alone that I have been saved; yet, without disciplining my person, battling my sin, and running to the Word of God in desperation and hunger, I will never respond to trials in a victorious manner. I want to respond in faith, not react in flesh. I know no other route but through proactive surrender and the pursuit of holiness. Without a doubt, the journey includes more time in the Word...more humility on my knees...deeper love for Christ...
This is not a route of formula or recipe. It is one of Christ at work in us...and us working out our salvation in Christ.