Discipline and Spontaneity

I cannot believe in the efficacy of human activity in matters where His Majesty appears to have set a limit to it and to have been pleased to reserve action for Himself. (Teresa of Avila: Fourth Mansions: Chapter Three)

We do things. God does things. When we get these mixed up we regress spiritually.  When God “moves” we should suspend our activity. Teresa says, “When from the secret signs He gives us we seem to realize that He is hearing us, it is well for us to keep silence”. Properly practiced, spiritual disciplines accelerate and deepen spiritual formation. But we should not ignore the Spirit by treating spiritual disciplines as a task list requiring completion when God is trying to do something else. A full spiritual life requires discipline and spontaneity. We practice spiritual disciplines because they keep us centered. But we embrace spontaneity because Jesus may engage us without notice.

Many times we get stuck in meaningless or low impact routines. When this rigidity seeps into our leadership we become obstructionists sabotaging the growth and progress of the institutions and people we serve. In the spiritual life, like any other area of life, we need to know what to do. But we also need to know when to stop doing. Teresa says, “the person who does most is he who thinks least and desires to do least”. 

Follow on Twitter: @Dave_Small

Contact Information: teresaofavilaturns500@gmail.com

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Jesus Follower, Blogger, Public Speaker. Teresaofavilaturns500.wordpress.com

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Posted in 4th Mansions - Chapter 3
6 comments on “Discipline and Spontaneity
  1. jls76 says:

    Great thoughts, the closing sentence kind of stings! Strong medicine my friend.

  2. rabirius says:

    Interesting.
    As I had already read your latest article, I went a bit back in your history.

    Greetings,
    rabirius.

  3. Christy B says:

    You remind us with this post that sometimes we get off track.. but I like to think God is waiting patiently for me when I get back to the path xx

    • Dave Small says:

      I agree — God patiently waits when we get “off track”. I think it’s often an active verses passive waiting with God doing some of his greatest work “behind the scenes” during our darkest and/or most distracted hours. It’s a constant (and patient) movement on God’s part to prepare us for a deeper relationship with him. Thanks for your thoughts Christy – it’s always great to hear from you.

  4. Aquileana says:

    “A full spiritual life requires discipline and spontaneity. We practice spiritual disciplines because they keep us centered. But we embrace spontaneity because Jesus may engage us without notice”…

    Could not agree more with that excerpt, Dave.
    Besides, it seems Teresa is giving us a social message, when she mentions the Institutions we should serve… Maybe it could even go beyond the Church!?.
    Great share!. Have a beautiful weekend. 😀 😉

  5. Dave Small says:

    Thanks for reading Aquileana. I like your thoughts about the “social message” — beyond the church and beyond the individual!

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