Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

The Good, the Bad, and the Different

The world is divided into three groups: the good, the bad, and the different. It’s easy to see ourselves in the first group, many others in the second, and to virtually vacate the third.

The reality is far different, of course. There are things that are morally good and things morally bad. But many of the things on which we differ simply are, well, just different.

Robert Boughton, the aging Presbyterian minister in Marilynne Robinson’s remarkable series of novels of the single word titles, Gilead, Lila, and Home, is said to never have found a moral instruction that he did not then feel obliged to give to his congregation. I feel some of the same impulse as I consider the subject of discipline. When I find someone who has trouble engaging the Bible or being frequent in prayer or comfortable in worship, I want to immediately tell them what I do, for since ‘what I do’ works for me, no doubt it will work for them.

Well, maybe so and maybe not. People are different. I fall asleep once the clock passes 9PM, and my wife is still going long after midnight. I find the solution to all of life’s problems involves a spreadsheet or a list, but she finds lists the instruments of the devil’s torture.

So, I get that we are different, and our differences affect how we practice the spiritual disciplines. Asking my wife to have her ‘quiet time’ in the early morning would be met with incredulous laughter.

I don’t know if what I ‘do’ would help you, or anyone else. I’m willing to suggest it might, but if you are struggling with spiritual disciplines, find someone whose life you respect and ask them to tell you what they do. You might find something you can emulate.

And the chances are that the first attempt at imitation will be hard. Any new discipline will feel like a stiff new pair of shoes. We can only tell they will be lifetime favorites after wearing them for a while. So, go to your respected friend, learn what they do, and give it some time.

Years ago, I recruited some people from the church I then pastored into a study group that included some wonderful help in the practice of the spiritual disciplines, help that continues to impact me to this day. Two-thirds of the way through that material two women in the group kindly pointed out that my preaching had improved during the course of that study. I was grateful, and I thanked them.

The truth was that my preaching had not changed, for good or ill. What had changed was their spiritual receptivity. Because of the demands of the study material they had applied themselves with greater regularity, greater discipline, to times of scripture and prayer. This had opened a softness in their soul that made them far more able to hear God’s word elsewhere, even in subpar preaching.

And THAT was good.




The Right to Remain Silent


  1. Jason Strong

    As I near the age of 65, I’ve found that my “spiritual receptivity” increases. 🙂

    Another great post Randy. You definitely have a gift

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