A mother gets up extra early to prepare breakfast for her family. Is the desire to rise early and make food before dawn natural? Maybe. Maybe not. But the desire to please and care for the family is sufficient motivation to put on a smile and do what needs done. A man works long hours at a hard job. Is it because he enjoys work? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Most likely it's because he enjoys getting paid, and loves to provide for his family; so he performs at a job he may not like. A student neglects what he'd really like to do on a Friday night, and instead pours over his studies in preparation for a test. Are his actions backed by genuine feelings? Probably not. Rather, they are backed by principle, by goals, by a bigger and long-term picture. So he performs.
I think most self-discipline and self-control is performance based. It's governing ourselves beyond our natural desires. Most times we are pleased with the results of our performance. Friendships are strengthened, good habits are formed while bad habits are broken, goals are reached and prizes are received. Our efforts to adhere to certain ethics or objectives, feelings aside, are usually rewarding.
In the same way, I "perform" in my faith. I choose to believe the best. I choose to pray. I choose to worship. I choose to get up early and read the Bible. I choose to be kind, to show love, to forgive. I choose to attend church functions. I choose to give. Sometimes, those actions are not supported by natural desires to do so. Yes. I put on a happy face and perform.
The beautiful thing is, before long, my heart will follow. Soon, the man loves his job. The mother loves to make her family breakfast. Soon, the student receives his degree. Soon, the sacrifice is not as painful. Before long, I look forward to rising early to read the Scripture, or attend a church function, or donate time or funds. I set my will, regardless of how fake I feel, and before you know it, my feelings align!
I think much of life is a performance. We rein in our emotions and harness our will. We discipline our minds and body, and it's not always an easy, natural task. Many times I have to choose joy over what I feel. I choose forgiveness over what I think is natural. I choose to wake up and connect with God. I ignore the fact that my heart may not be entirely involved in these various routines.
And little by little, the routines become alive. Our performance begins to pay off. Little by little, people begin to thank us. Parents are proud of us. Friends are inspired by us. Families are blessed by us.
Even though not every move I made was genuinely heart felt all the time, over time, I am so grateful to have stuck with what I knew was right. I am so glad I delivered the best performance I could muster. The joy of knowing I've done well, and hearing from a boss or teacher or a friend that my labor and work was worth it... it's incredible!
Few things in this world compare to the satisfaction of being genuinely affirmed by a superior. To receive a sincere compliment from someone who's professional and valid evaluation carries significant weight, it adds more value to our work and sacrifice than just about anything. A deep sense of worth comes over us when we realize we've made our parents, teachers, employers or coaches truly proud. I believe there is a drive within all of us to please and perform with such excellence and integrity that those we admire stand back and say, "Well done!" And I further believe that this drive was instilled in each of us by God, and is meant to be satisfied in full one day.
There is one superior whose affirmation I crave more than anything else on the planet. Christ. Flesh and bone, body and blood. The person of Jesus. A man. I am continually enraptured by the mystery of this man. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I am consumed by desire to encounter Him, to hear His review of my life. He is what I live for, His reward is what I reach for, His call is what I press towards, His face is what I long for and His voice, telling me, "Well done," I will die for.
I will pull together all my will to muscle through every fake feeling, every tired moment, every frustrating situation. I will power through every emotional and natural hesitation, and will deliver the best performance I can humanly muster.
I plan to stick with with what I know, not what I feel. I couldn't care less whether or not I feel genuinely desirous of all my efforts of sacrifice and faith. Truly. Call me fake. But I am believing that one day, "well done" will be the words that crown this performance. And on that day, I will be so glad I performed.