Tag Archives: Gospel

The Spiritual Discipline of Overcoming Self

When we think about spiritual disciplines perhaps prayer, meditation, study, solitude or fasting may come to mind. These are good disciplines in and of themselves, but over the next season we’re going to explore some other disciplines that may not have been as well defined to us.

Saint Francis said:
“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”

Too often we may be more mindful of how other people need to change. Maybe it’s easier to see imperfections in others while being blind to our own, but when we do become mindful of our own shortcomings it’s usually painful and embarrassing, we encounter shame when we overreact, or read a situation wrong, or realize that we were just selfish.

We think it is easier to ignore or justify when we have gotten something wrong, but give it a few weeks, or even days, and we realize that ignoring the situation didn’t make it go away, it’s still there.

There is hope:
2 Corinthians 5:17 says
…If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here!

The life of a disciple is a lifelong journey of being sculpted and formed more into the likeness of Jesus. It’s not a race, it’s a journey.

Frances de Sales wrote a book titled The Introduction To The Devout Life in 1609, but he still seems relevant today. He said:
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them—every day begin the task anew.”

I find one of the best ways of overcoming self is to try to think of others more, and to think of myself less.

Every day begin the task anew!

The Farmer And The Apple Tree

There was an apple tree named Al. Al wanted to grow big and strong and wanted to produce lots of apples. He was planted on a hill, got some sun and some water and thought he was ready to go. But something was wrong, No matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t produce many apples, and sometimes he produced non at all.

The farmer came by and said “Al, how are you doing?”
Al said “I’m OK, but I’m an Apple Tree and I want to produce really good apples, but I’m having trouble…”

The Farmer said “I think I can help you with that, do you trust me?”
Al said “I think so… I really want to make good apples, will you help me?”

The farmer said “Sure, you’ll be a great apple tree …But remember, no matter what happens, no matter how unpleasant things may be for a moment here or there, you’ll be ok and afterwards you’ll make the best apples. Again, do you trust me?”

Trepidatiously Al said “Yes.”

The next day the farmer came with a small hatchet and some gardening snips, and started cutting branches and twigs off of Al, here and there.
Al yelled “OUCH! Hey, cut that out…that hurts!!!”
The Farmer explained that these little branches and twigs took Al’s time, attention and energy; they kept him from producing good fruit.
Al relented and said “OK.”

The next day the farmer drives up with a truck full of manure. Now, talk to any farmer and they’ll tell you the best fertilizer is chicken poop.
So here comes the farmer throwing fertilizer on Al the apple tree, all over his roots, all over the ground, and Al exclaims
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” “THIS STINKS!” “Why is this happening to me?” “I HATE THIS…”

But the farmer just smiled and told Al “It’ll be OK, Al.”

A few weeks later Al noticed lots of apples, beginning to grow.
A few more weeks and the Farmer brought a truck load of kids to pick apples. The kids said how good the apples were, their moms talked about how nutritious the apples must be.

Al was so happy he had produced good apples.
The Farmer said “Al, well done!”

(A story based on John 15, The Vine, The Branches & The Gardener)