The Meaning of Discipline – Wisdom from Henri Nouwen

by Christine Sine

Morning prayer - Pinkhassov

In Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith, Henri Nouwen says: 

Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond to God’s guidance. Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God – a time and place where God’s gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to.

Discipline has almost become a dirty word in our society. Boundaries and limits make us feel as though we can’t breathe or that we have lost our freedom.

I well remember a friend of ours who spent several weeks in a monastery. He told me that before he went he thought that having to stop for prayer several times a day would be stifling. Instead he found it to be liberating. It took my focus away from work as the most important thing to God, he told me.

How often is our lack of discipline because our eyes are on something other than God?How often do we lack discipline because we want the freedom to do anything we like without being accountable to God or to anyone else around us?

Think about what Nouwen says. Rather than emphacizing the rigours of repetitive action that many of us struggle he focuses on the result – time & space for God. What spiritual disciplines have you avoided with the excuse that they are repetitive or ritualistic and yet in the process lost time and space with God? What is one discipline you could initiate that would help create necessary boundaries to protect your time with God?

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Coe Hutchison February 10, 2015 - 10:16 am

Christine, I like this and would like to read this rest of Nouwen’s comment. Do you know which “day” in the book this is from? God bless, Coe.

Christine Sine February 10, 2015 - 10:40 am

Coe unfortunately I do not. I had written this in my journal several years ago as a quote for Lent but wrote down the book it came from but not the page and I cannot find my copy of the book – looks as though I will need to rebuy it and read it again.

Coe Hutchison February 10, 2015 - 10:57 am

Thanks, Christine. I will look in my paper copy of the book and see if I can find it when I get back in town. Out on vacation right now. God bless, Coe

Christine Sine February 10, 2015 - 11:06 am

Coe let me know when you find it.

Boelle February 10, 2015 - 1:23 pm

In my little cocoon of myspace (as opposed to Godspace!), the eyes and ears of my heart have been closed. My choices not to entertain inspiration from without or within, to distract and avoid have left me like a paper bag. I have often avoided reading your blog and musings, or taking them in, because they might move me. Well, today’s quote and your take broke through to the germ of love for God that I thought was not there, or never enough to motivate me. Even though “discipline” has not been a word I welcome, please pray that this new envisioning will draw me out. Thank you for your humility, your openness, your love.

Christine Sine February 10, 2015 - 1:41 pm

I will certainly be praying for you and am glad that this has touched you. May God’s spirit continue to work in your life

Albertus Mostert February 10, 2015 - 2:27 pm

Bread for the Journey, February 27. Google is amazing 🙂

Bev Wilson February 11, 2015 - 4:43 pm

HI Christine – again a very helpful Godspace. thank you.
Also – I received my 3 packs of prayer cards in the mail today – I’m looking forward to sharing the 2 sets
with a friend and having my own set of Lenten prayer cards now too.

Christine Sine February 11, 2015 - 7:13 pm

Thanks Bev, I am glad the cards arrived and I hope you find them useful. Blessings

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