Friday, July 23, 2010

One of the best books for...

a homemaker or homeschooling mother is not a homemaking or homeschooling book at all.

Elisabeth Elliot's Discipline, The Glad Surrender is really a book for everyone who needs a nudge to get on with it, whatever it is: work, homeschooling (though not specifically mentioned), housework, taking care of our families, our bodies and our stuff. Elisabeth Elliot knows a little bit about getting on with it and not sitting around feeling sorry for herself, or feeling that she deserves more than what she's got.

Her husband was killed while they were serving as missionaries in South America. Here is what she has to say about "getting on with it" in her chapter "The Discipline of Work:"
I never appreciated the tremendous therapeutic value of work until I lost my first husband. Since then I have been asked dozens of times, "How did you ever bring yourself to go back to the jungle?"

I doubt I could have. I did not "go back." I stayed. There was work to be done, lots of work, and there was nobody else to do it. Every day, from the first day following the final news that five men were dead, was packed with duties. My baby, my house, an airstrip to maintain, Indians to teach and employ and visit and inject and advise and help, translation work and correspondence filled the time I might otherwise have used to feel sorry for myself.
No self-pity, no sitting around because "it's too hard." Just getting on with it.

It is the sort of book I should read once a year, though I do not. I do read it every few years, and pull it out from time to time to read specific chapters. It's not a chirpy, feel-good inspirational book. I sometimes want to throw it against the wall because I don't want to hear what she has to say. It is nicely divided into short chapters, each dealing with an area of discipline: the body, the mind, time, possessions, and more.

For the person who has trouble getting out of bed in the morning, she has this to say in "The Discipline of the Body:"
My father had a ready answer for those who expressed incredulity at his "ability" to get up so early in the morning: "You have to start the night before."

My great Bible teacher, L. E. Maxwell, was asked by a friend how in the world he had ever "gotten victory" that enabled him to rise at four or five. "How long did it take? Did you have someone pray with you about it?"

"No, I get up," was his reply.
I hesitated to put in those anecdotes, because someone always goes away saying "oh, I have to get up earlier!" I like them because of the matter-of-factness: "I get up." I have no plans to start getting up at four or five am. But the point isn't the hour. It's the getting up when we need to. There is a story about a homeschooling mom/author - I can't remember her name, please leave it in the comments if you do, and correct the story as necessary - who shocked everyone around her by admitting that she rose at 8 am. What a sluggard! But her reason was sound: her husband worked late, and she wanted to be able to stay up and spend time with him. So she and her kids kept later hours to accommodate this. She was doing the right thing! But people get hung up on the hour.

Mrs. Elliot also takes on dissatisfaction with unfulfilling work, worry, undisciplined eating, laziness... I think it's all here.

I know I'm quoting too much but here is just one more, from "The Discipline of the Mind:"
"There is no real expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking," wrote Sir Joshua Reynolds. Try following a single idea through to its conclusion. How many detours did you make? How many times did you stop to pass the time of day with another idea, utterly unrelated to the first? How often did you sink into the grass as it were, at the side of the road, and let your mind float with the clouds?

Of course the book isn't perfect. I don't like the way she references Bible verses; I am lazy and prefer to see chapter and verse referenced with the passage, not in an a "notes" section in the back of the book. This way I can read the passage in my preferred translation. She uses translations with which I am not familiar, mostly the New English Bible. But that's really a minor quibble.

If you want to be challenged about your own discipline, if you want to think (and be encouraged to think), check out Discipline, The Glad Surrender.

1 comment:

Sheryl said...

"I just get up." Yeah. Since I've been developing the habit of exercise, I've borrowed Nike's motto : Just Do It. I can't begin to tell you how often I have to say that to myself.

I looked this up on Amazon and it looks like a book that I need to read, though I'll probably want to bounce it off the wall a time or two, also! ;-)

Thanks for the recommendation!