“It is doubtful if any work of excellence is ever produced without some discouragement and without days when the producer goes on doggedly, not because he likes it, but because he knows that this is the only way in which any work of importance is ever completed.” (Elton Trueblood. The New Man for Our Time. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1970, p. 70.)
I have found it helpful to distinguish between what I feel like and what I deeply desire. In seasons when I am practicing the discipline of daily exercise, I frequently do not feel like getting on my bike, or kayaking the lake, or driving to the gym, or running the neighborhood. But I can’t recall a time after exercising, having pushed past my don’t-feel-like-exercising when I wished I hadn’t. The realization of my true desire often came on the other side of pushing through my don’t-feel-like. This is the nature of discipline.
I haven’t tapped into discipline when I’m still cruising along in the high consolation of a honeymoon. When the newness carries me along, when others offer words of affirmation for the new pattern in my life, I require little discipline to continue in that direction. It is when no one else notices anymore, when a certain degree of boredom accompanies my efforts, that discipline has come into play.
Father, would You increase my pit bull tenacity for practices that establish my walking with You and working with You? May Your Spirit uphold and spur me on in Your ways. I want this even when I don’t feel like it.
This is where spiritual direction can be very much like athletic coaching. A coach helps an athlete stay on course when she forgets the connection between the tedious work of training and the desired outcome of excellence on the field. A spiritual director can encourage us in a rule of life that will inevitably take us through times when we don’t feel at all like practicing our chosen spiritual disciplines or abstaining from certain fruitless behaviors. A spiritual director can see our lives from a place of clearer perspective and help us remember what we truly want when our don’t-feel-like is shouting much louder.
I am a fool if I believe I will always feel-like doing good. I sometimes feel like doing what is self-serving. The path of least resistance is a common default mode. Doing good will more often than not involve pushing past don’t-feel-like to do what is good and, I will discover, what I most truly and deeply desire.