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Submission Is Actually a Spiritual Practice

I have been reading a book by Nathan Foster, the son of Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline. Having grown up in the church, Nathan falls into the category of one who is disillusioned with the organized church and its practices. He shared the following story in his book, The Making of an Ordinary Saint. Nathan was on a three-day bike ride across rural Ohio battling 20 mph winds. He was exhausted and angry. It was a legitimately brutal journey and he was in pain simply attempting to endure it. He tells how he encountered an older man, also on the trip who was having a very different experience. Every time Nathan would complain about the harshness of the wind, the older gentlemen would respond by noticing the beauty of the scenery around them. This infuriated Nathan because he felt invalidated by the man’s lack of response. Eventually the man encouraged him to submit to the harshness of the wind and embrace it.

I connect to this story because when I am going thorough something difficult, I am very vocal. I invite everyone into my frustration and pain, always needing the reassuring validation of others that I have had a hard day, or that my situation is in fact challenging. So, the idea of submitting or embracing what is causing me frustration sounds unlikely. Yet it turns out that submission is actually a spiritual practice. It means to submit to another instead of getting your own way. The Apostle Paul said it this way in Ephesians 5:20-21, "… always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and submit to each other out of respect for Christ."

I believe this can be extended to submission to a hard task or challenge. I decided to try out this spiritual practice a week ago. I had many tasks before me, and I felt both angry and overwhelmed by the work. But this time, I asked God to help me embrace the difficult—submit to it instead of complaining about it. Big surprise, I ended up really enjoying all the work I had before me. Instead of feeling tired, I was inspired.

Nathan had the same experience; he began to enjoy his ride. It was still hard and exhausting, but he also began to enjoy the beautiful scenery around him. It turns out that spiritual practices are not bad after all. I hope you will join us Sunday as we continue to explore spiritual practices by focusing on the practice of fasting.


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