The Discipline of Self

When it comes to self-discipline, I have to admit I just don’t have much. I never had had much.

I am blessed with a personality type that holds many, varied interests. There is no end to the list of things I’d love to be good at, hobbies I’d love to master, skills I wish I had.

At the same time, as I’ve noted before, I am cursed with a personality type that doesn’t stick with any one hobby for very long.

This is why, for example, I still have a stash of green coffee beans from Christmas a couple of years ago. Some friends were getting into roasting their own coffee and I loved the concept, the aroma, the process…so I asked for a shipment from Sweet Maria’s to get me started. A trip to our local thrift store scored me an old air popper, and I was in business!

That is, until I decided it really wasn’t worth the time and fuss for a palate as unsophisticated as mine. I like to drink coffee, but I’ll let someone else do my roasting…so now I have a couple ziploc bags of old green coffee beans up for grabs. Anyone want ‘em?

I don’t roast coffee anymore.

In college, it was guitar. I played enough to get kinda good, play for some worship services, entertain myself and relax at the end of the day. I think most college students who learn guitar imagine that one day they’ll be a hip sort of singer/songwriter, hitting the road with a battered old Martin in hand, a duffle bag filled with flannel and jeans, a junk car and dreams to make it all pay off. I was one of them for a time.

I don’t play guitar much anymore.

After college and into Seminary, it was baking. I baked bread like a man possessed. I sold bread to my fellow seminarians, I offered bread for communion, I donated bread to seminars and retreats. I fell in love with sourdough; oh, if only that finicky sourdough loved me back!

I don’t bake much anymore.

Since then, I’ve tried my hand at scroll-sawing. It’s a hobby I’ve enjoyed when I’ve taken the time to do it. There’s something satisfying about the intricate work, watching a piece of art take shape as you feed the wood carefully through the blade, taking care not to cut it too close, not to ruin the work of your hands.

I don’t scroll saw much anymore.

I built a dollhouse to sell at an adoption fundraiser we did a while back. I loved building that dollhouse, and I was really happy with the end result. So when it was done, I bought another and started to work on it.

It’s been up in my ‘shop’ for the past several months, strewn about like a tornado took it apart. I do fully intend to complete it at some point…but I’ll be the first to admit that it looks much the same now/ as it did in the Spring.

I don’t build dollhouses much anymore.

A year or so ago I discovered running, and so far I’ve stuck with it long enough to complete a number of races, including a half marathon. Running has been good to me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve become healthier all around thanks to this newfound passion…but need I even say…I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time until I can add running to the ever-lengthening list of things I don’t do much anymore.

I sincerely hope not. Choosing to run is probably the single most positive lifestyle change I’ve made in the last decade of life…even so, I’m only a few easy decisions away from adding it to the list.
It’s easy to sleep that extra half hour. It’s easy to stay up too late the night before. It’s easy to convince myself I’ll find the time later in the day…or later in the week…which soon becomes later in the month…which soon means I don’t run much anymore.

Which brings me to the practice of writing (as you can tell if you’re one of the several who’ve ‘followed’ this blog). It’s not that I’ve run out of things to say, reflections to offer, poems to scrawl or stress to blow off…it’s more that I’m afflicted with a kind of ongoing existential crisis that calls into question the meaning of the things I create; whether it’s bread, or woodwork, or music, or pixels of meaning strung throughout cyberspace.

From time to time my affliction calls all of ‘my’ creation into question. I step back through layers of meaning that time has erected within and around this project I call ‘life’, and find the need for a reconfiguration of meaning.

In other words, it’s hard to keep writing when I’m not sure why I do it and there is already so much commentary on ye olde internet.

It’s hard to keep baking in the midst of so much bread.

It’s hard to keep running when it’s only for my health.

Can you relate to any of this?

All that to say, much has happened over the past several weeks. I owe a debt of gratitude to a number of people whom I ran into at convention a couple of weeks ago in Phoenix…some of you I knew, and others I was glad to meet for the first time there.

It’s you who convinced me it’s time to start writing again.

It’s a surreal moment when someone you’ve never met recognizes your name because of something you wrote a long time ago. I’ll admit, it makes me feel just a little bit famous.
It’s also a humbling experience when someone takes a moment in the midst of a different conversation, just to tell you that they’ve missed reading your thoughts. (Just the fact that a couple of people noticed that I’ve stopped blogging is incredible to me.)

So thanks for the affirmation over the past couple of weeks. I’ll try to be more consistent, but knowing my track record, I won’t make any promises.

That said, I’ve got a lot to unpack over the next several posts, if you’re able to join me that would be great.

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2 Responses to The Discipline of Self

  1. bobstuhlmann says:

    Thanks from Bob Stuhlmann

  2. Phil Wood says:

    I’ve often reflected on the significance of personality type to Christian life and community. I’m also blessed or cursed with wandering curiosity. In my case, I’ve also pondered the implications of being an introvert ( I think churches, well as individuals, have a personality type.

    I enjoyed your blog. Duly wandering around on my blogroll! Phil

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