The Soft Side of Discipline

I’ve made the same mistake at least twice now. The first time I was renovating our rental home in exchange for cheaper rent. The second time I was working on a draft of my theology book this past August. Linking these two projects is my crushing drive, tenacious, nay reckless attack of each seeking to complete them in a brief period of time.

Friends and family marveled at my discipline and dogged determination to wrap both up ahead of schedule. Nevertheless, in both situations I nearly fell apart down the home stretch. During the renovations I remember spackling about one hundred nail pop holes in the guest room/office and just wanting to run away.

While working on the draft of my book I hit the wall on the last chapter and could not will the words onto the page. I reread that chapter last night and marveled that instead of slowing down with a neat concluding paragraph I run the reader into a closing sentence at full speed.

Such happens when discipline takes on a life of its own.

Insert lesson: Discipline involves stopping as much as starting. I am glad that I can push myself to work through difficult projects toward deadlines, but at an indiscernible point they took over my life, occupying all of my free time, haunting my still moments, and demanding constant attention.

Throughout August I did not permit myself down time except on very rare occasions. I simply changed out of my work clothes and pressed my fingers down on the keyboard. Back in the days of renovations I remember working well into the night on a regular basis, re-spackling and repainting every room in our dated little house.

Now I am working on a series of study guides with another deadline approaching, but I’m trying to remain cool under fire. I have a lot of work to do, but relaxing in the evenings with the latest books by Rick Atkinson or Brian McLaren is essential if I’m ever going to finish these projects. It takes a kind of softer discipline to make myself believe that.