If you’ve read this blog for any time at all, you know I am captivated by the idea of “small things”. I’ve always thought of this in the sense of doing small acts of service, or giving words of encouragement – the widow of Zarephath showing up with her tiny bit of flour and oil, or Jesus choosing dropouts for disciples, or Namaan dipping in the water – things that seem counter to the world’s economy.
But recently I heard a sermon, and I’ve been thinking of Zechariah 4:10 differently. It brought to mind a story from a couple years ago when, during a commencement speech at the University of Texas, the commander of the forces that organized the raid to kill Osama bin Laden told the graduates:
The U.S. Navy Admiral went on to say:
“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.
Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
Instead of thinking about “small things” as stewardship or service, I’ve been thinking of it as the small commitments to disciplines that God can use to equip us or train us, having exponential impact.
Jeff Manion writes,
“Greatness is rarely achieved by doing great things, but by doing good things repeatedly”
For Daniel, “making his bed” was the discipline of refusing to eat the royal food.
Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine…”
On the surface this discipline might just seem dumb. Who doesn’t like Lou Malnati’s pizza and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream? But this wasn’t just about being healthy. It was about not eating food that had been sacrificed to idols. For Daniel, this discipline reminded him who was the most powerful in his life and it wasn’t the king.
For David, “making his bed” was the discipline (long before Goliath) of faithfully remaining – guarding stinky, muddy sheep while his brothers were off doing the fun stuff fighting the bad guys. While pursuing this unseen discipline God was preparing him for more.
1 Samuel 17:37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
My friends inspire me in this area of discipline.
For one who has just endured a painful break-up, “making his bed” has meant the discipline of not drinking at all for a time because he recognizes his temptation to numb with alcohol in this season.
For another friend, Mycah, “making her bed” is the discipline of Sabbathing. And the thing that strikes me about her, is that it didn’t start with the “small thing” of Sabbath. It started with the smaller discipline of not using social media on Fridays, and then not working on Fridays, and then turning her phone off from Thursday night to Saturday morning.
Still another friend talked to me about “making her bed” as the discipline of gratitude in a season of hard circumstances.
We don’t “make our bed” in order to gain God’s attention or favor. He’s crazy about us, messy bed and all. Grace, grace, and more grace is the bedrock of our relationship with Him! Instead, I like Doug Rumford’s definition of discipline:
“A means to develop soul memory for reflexive spiritual responsiveness.”
What are the small disciplines God wants to use to train you? Are there ways you see that physical discipline impacts spiritual discipline?
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