Over a period of two years, I made various attempts to simplify my life, eliminate distractions, and focus my pursuit of Jesus around things I deemed important. I failed.
Sound familiar? We often resist taking the time to sit down with a pen and paper, inviting the Lord to have a conversation with how we spend our time, and then writing down some decisions because it's so... final. If we took those steps, we might actually follow-through and the only thing we want more than to be closer to Jesus is to act like we want to be closer to Jesus without actually doing anything to be closer to Jesus.
Sorry, sometimes I get to toe-stepping.
I'm sure that last paragraph only describes me.
But, just in case I've accurately described your spiritual pursuits, actually taking the step of inviting the Lord into a conversation about how you want to prioritize and organize your life is a terrible decision. All kinds of change follows.
And if you're like me, the only thing you hate more than feeling frustrated over the idea that you may be missing something in your pursuit of Jesus is actually making changes to more intentionally pursue Jesus.
See? There I go. Toe-stepping again. Again, I'm sure that's just me.
So, how do you do it? I've found it helpful to think about a discipleship plan in terms of categories of behaviors. Some are proactive practices that you intentionally take up for their value, others are reactive practices that you either take or give up in response to how they form and shape you, perhaps unwittingly.
Here are a few helpful categories to help you get started:
Spiritual Disciplines-- those age-old practices that have contributed to the faith formation of countless saints before you. Reading/studying the Bible, prayer, Sabbath, community, etc. My discipleship plan includes reading/reflecting on Scripture, prayer journaling, praying Psalms, taking a Sabbath, etc.
Presence-- Evaluate your relationship to technology, specifically your use of your phone, your availability for work, etc. Consider what kinds of relationships you want to prioritize and what that will look like. My rule includes limiting my phone use between certain hours, eliminating social media and email from my phone, and creating guidelines for prioritizing time with my wife, kids, and friends.
Rebellions-- No activity is neutral. Evaluate your time and habits. Consider how the things that you spend time/money on are forming you. Sometimes you may find that you're just going along with the course of culture or a path you've never seriously considered. These might not necessarily even be bad things against you want to rebel. But they might be less good things against which you can rebel for something greater. For instance, I've never seriously considered from where my clothing came. As I've learned more about the unjust processes through which many clothing companies manufactor clothing, I've determined that I will do my best to consider the working conditions of the people who make my clothing in the future.
Railings-- Maybe you need a little guidance or motivation on a specific step. For instance, your rule may include reading the Bible every day. That's all well and good, but what if you add "No phone until I read my Bible and pray"? You've got a pretty good railing there, huh? I'm discipling a student who's struggling to get out of bed and pray. We decided that if he wasn't up by a specific time (the time he identified as necessary to spend at least 5 minutes in prayer in the morning), he would have to do 50 burpees. In three weeks, he's only overslept twice.
Simplify-- We tend to make things overly complicated. Where have you made it difficult to give your attention because of distractions or entrapments? Where have you accumulated too much? As part of my rule, I cleaned out my closest and am attempting to limit myself to a specific number of seasonal outfits. I also deleted all apps on my phone I deemed as "time-wasting" or specific to work that I could access on my computer, you know, while I was working.
I'm sure you can find more. And if you read through the books I listed on the Influential Posts page, you'll find a variety of other categorizations. Don't get too hung up on the categories. Just get to work.
Get that pen paper. Get alone for half an hour. Ask God to show you how to help you simplify your pursuit of Him.
Need a little more structure? Get my free "Creating Your Discipleship Plan" guide delivered to your inbox by entering your email below.