Most of the things I would currently like to improve in my life require $0 and major amounts of commitment.
I need to be more organized. I need to learn how to keep plants alive. I want to read more classics so I can keep up with my kids. I ought to finally do that capsule wardrobe, but I would like to lose 10 pounds first.
On and on and on.
The disciplined person is the person who can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. ~ Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
Sometimes doing what needs to be done means nothing new, but something old. I don’t need any new gadgets to get organized, just some black garbage bags mostly. I don’t need new houseplants to experiment on, new clothes to make me feel better, or new books to read.
Doing what needs to be done means going back to what you know, being faithful in those little things, and doing the hard work of the right thing now – regardless of what you’ve let slip by.
Take parenting, for example. Let’s just say that one day you realize you’ve let too much line out at once and beneath the surface of that still life, you’ve got a coiled up mess of fishing line that has to be reeled in.
Going backwards is not usually a good thing.
It’s also not well-received.
Let’s just say you do, though. Let’s pretend that you do reel back the extra line and you meet with not a little resistance. You meet with all the energy of someone who feels just as strongly about things as you do, only in the opposite way; as in, strongly opposed to your apparent back-peddling.
My husband bolsters me with this new motto: “It’s never too late to start doing it right.”
It’s not too late, but it’s certainly not the easiest route – this way we have of learning as we go, making amendments, feeling our way through.
Parenting by braille.
When it needs to be done. Those seem like the heaviest words and the key to the disciplined life. Doing the right thing too late is possibly as bad as doing the wrong thing, isn’t it?
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” ~ James 3:17
When I’ve done the right thing too late, I need the gentleness of perspective and the willingness to yield to something new.
Like Pavlov’s dogs, I also need to see rewards along the way.
All the reassuring words of scripture come alive when my child chooses to sit next to me and share a story or a picture or something silly from Pinterest; when one of them comes at me with a bit of wisdom; when they pick up someone else’s garbage or ask if I need anything or stop an argument by responding gently.
It’s not the biggest moments.
It’s not a landmark repentance or confession or a suddenly compliant child that gives me hope. (I mean, those things would be great. I just know that this parenting thing is a long-haul and if we held our breath for the high moments, we’d be very light-headed.)
It’s the little things, and the moments when doing the right thing at the right time is a choice you see your child making.
This is it: we are always wanting to improve – on our parenting, our living, our following Jesus in a way that is worthy of His calling – but I’ve forced my own improvements and they just don’t last.
The long obedience of parenting is a road with landmarks few and far between. Sometimes we circle back. Sometimes we erect our own altars. Sometimes we do the right thing too late and we need large amounts of grace.
God has always honored the flawed who follow Him. Read Hebrews 11 and find one hero in that list who was without a major flaw.
Then add yourself to that list. Add your children. Live by faith that a heart after Him is a heart that continually starts to do the right thing, on and on and on, because it’s never too late.