Self-Discipline and Rows of Ducks

After I finished high school, I decided to take the non-traditional route of going to college and instead I found myself living in Clarksburg, Ontario with a house full of strangers, ready to embark on a twelve-month, gap-year program, geared toward ministry and leadership and teamwork.  Try explaining that one to your high-school guidance counselor.  I'm fairly certain that women was convinced I was falling off the deep end and there was no saving me.

During the first few months of YouthBuilders, our time was filled with trainings, seminars, assignments, and projects, all with the underlying goal of helping to groom our ragamuffin group into a team of somewhat capable and competent young adults (no small feat to anyone who has worked with students).  Not to mentioned, none of us knew one another and beginning the fall, we were about to embark on our own; four students, in a van, on our way to partner with churches as they pour into their students.

Amongst all of the training and coursework that took place was a personality indicator called T-JTA (Taylor Johnson Temperament Analysis) that took a critical evaluation of personality traits and tried to find various characteristics in which each person could grow.  While I don't remember every part of the feedback I was given, I remember ranking 98% in "Self-Discipline".  I remember hearing that feedback and smiling to myself, proud that I had mastered and tamed my life in a way that I was in ultimate control (Lord, help me).

There have been times where I've really benefitted from being self-disciplined.  I've done well in school, ran two half-marathons, and have always had money saved.  One time, we were on vacation with family and my sister and I each got an allowance of "fun money" from our grandparents, in which I was told that if I didn't just act like a normal kid and do something fun", they were going to take the money back.  On the flip side, there have also been times where being overly self-disciplined has caused me to miss out on some wonderful opportunities.  I've said "no" to SO MANY THINGS because it didn't fit my strict budget or schedule or diet or routine.  In the world of Ashley Nichole Sider, spontaneity and self-discipline rarely work together.

Self-discipline has kept me living small, in a tiny box, not allowing much space in my life for risk or chance.  And what I'm realizing more and more lately is that by always having all of my ducks-in-a-row, I'm not leaving much space for God.

When Dillon and I travel or do work around our house, we like to listen to an NPR podcast called, "How I Built This", which looks at major companies and brands and unpacks how they became what they are.  After listening to many of these stories, I am constantly surprised and inspired at the lack of planning that the majority of these stories contain.  I've listened to hours and hours of people who start with basically nothing and stumble their way into something big, which ironically always leaves me feeling totally inspired, a bit like a loser, and slightly baffled at how they pulled the whole thing off.  Totally recommend it.

Lately, I've been feeling God stirring something new in my life, and what exactly that is, I don't know.  I've been feeling the strong desire to try something new and branch out creatively, in a way that situates myself in the place of the unknown, without all of my ducks and without all of my rows.  I'm realizing more and more that by living so tight and rigid and disciplined, I leave little room for God to be God.  I bemoan and pray for God to work miracles in our life, to show up big in ways that inspires others and allows for God to have the credit, but in the same breath I plan and calculate every detail in ways that (subconsciously) ensure that we don't need to depend on anyone but ourselves.

Slowly (and unnaturally) I'm trying to carve out spaces to forget the ducks and untidy the rows and to try new things.  To scratch the creative itch.  To expand the rigid parameters I've placed on my life.  To listen to the patient and quiet whisper of my Maker and to allow God to move me in ways that I never would have thought possible.

So here's to all of you wanna-be creative, un-naturally spontaneous, type A folks.  Our story is still being written, and God isn't close to being finished with us yet.  This party is just getting started.

" confident of this, that He who began the good work within you, will continue His work until is is finally finished"

- Philippians 1:6

Ashley Sider