Made for Community: Learning Discipline in Relationships
Recently, I have found myself receiving banners announcing the all too high number of hours I spend on my phone each week, scrolling, constantly checking for notifications, and looking at it despite wanting to be totally engaged with the community I am in. I have found myself more attached to my smartphone, tablet, and computer than I care to admit. I have found myself comparing others’ lives to mine, rather than experiencing a life worth fully living. I have found myself more preoccupied with crafting to-do lists than really doing things. I have found myself consumed by a longing for something deeper and something more. I have found myself longing for a sense of true, vibrant, life-giving connection—not the artificial connection carried across airwaves and wifi, but real connection.
Maybe you feel it too.
Maybe in this world of twenty-four seven access to information, connection, and distraction found in the forms of Netflix, social media, and an online reality distant from our own, we have become too acquainted with the substitution of blue-light screens in exchange for real faces and real relationships.
For this reason, discipline in relationships is essential. It allows for boundaries, enabling us to intentionally and completely spend time with God, our family, and our friends, apart from the busyness of everyday college life and the distractions of the world.
In a world that highlights shallow relationships, craves fast-paced experiences, and champions self-made truths, let us cling to this ultimate truth: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
No, discipline is not always easy, and in the beginning it is rarely fun, but it is so worthwhile. For instance, it takes discipline to put down the phone and pick up the bible; it takes discipline to take time out of the college lifestyle and call parents and high school friends; it takes discipline to finish homework and attend that bible study; it takes discipline to schedule dinners with classmates, to go out of the way to greet the new girl, and to extend an invitation to the one who is sitting alone. Although it is often contrary to our nature, it is what we should want to do. After all, relational boundaries are essential to our growth and character, as the poet John Donne writes, “No man is an island.” We are created for community.
Hence, I encourage you to take time out of your day to rest from work, to love your neighbors, and to remind yourself of a truth greater than your own, and in doing so, I know you will reap the fruits of your discipline. Without setting time aside for devotion to God and space to love our neighbors, we will fail every time. We can not withstand hustle and busyness alone. We need purposeful time and space for relationships, as one author writes, “Human beings need a rhythm of work and rest in order to live up to their God-given potential.”
Discipline is a manner of training our wants and desires, for instead of looking to ourselves, we must train our hearts, our minds, and our souls to look to God, who tells us to “work heartily” for the Lord, and to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Col. 3:23; Hebrews 12:1-2). Therefore, the truth of Hebrews 12:11 is evident. Discipline takes time to establish, but it enables us to live more fully for the God who died for us.
This is certainly a lesson I am learning in this season as a college student, being away from home, managing obligations, balancing schedules and commitments, while also savoring time in community. So, next time I am preoccupied by my to-do list, whether that be laundry, homework and studying, or spending time in unproductive and unfruitful conversations, may this be a lesson for me (and for you): Relationships take work—relationships with family, friends, and above all, God—but they bear much fruit. You have time to pray; you have time to make dinner plans with a new friend; you have time to call your parents. We are not made to live without connections, and while it may be an adjustment, next time we reach to turn on Netflix, to text a friend, or to scroll endlessly on a phone, may we instead reach for our bibles, stationery to write to a friend, or a community that keeps us accountable to act intentionally.
With this in mind, I want to leave you with a few questions: How can you go out of your way to serve your neighbor? How can you spend fifteen extra minutes in the morning with the Lord? How can you recognize the blessings and connections we have in our life without being distracted by comparison?
Next time you struggle with creating intentional time and space for community, may you remember that we are not called to conform to this worldly lifestyle, but to “be transformed by the renewal of [our minds], that by testing [we] may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). May we “consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that [we] may not grow weary or fainthearted,” but bear much fruit, even through our struggles (Hebrews 12:3).
Heavenly Father, may we approach each day with welcoming arms, open hearts, and minds geared towards your Word. Next time we are tempted to succumb to the distractions of the world, give us strength and courage to cultivate relationships that glorify You, with intentionality, commitment, and gratitude. Help us, dear Lord, to seek Your likeness in all our endeavors, establishing boundaries when necessary, and obeying Your command to practice discipline in our relationships.