I gave up white chocolate lollies for Lent, the season when it’s traditional to ‘give something up’ in solidarity with the spirit of Jesus’ wilderness experience of 40 days and nights following his Baptism (Matthew 4:1-11). I’d like to say that I reflected deeply before embarking on this selection, but that was not the case. I was shamed into ‘giving something up’ on learning my husband, a Godly man of simple pleasures, had given up apples – undoubtedly the simple pleasure of all his simple pleasures, sitting alongside crisps (and salted snacks) that was another Lenten offering of his a few years ago. And what I noticed even more about this unexpected action, was that had I not enquired as to what he was giving up for Lent, I’d never have known.
And so, in a moment of shame and unashamed playful competition, I grabbed the first thought that filled my mind in terms of personal fleshly pleasure – white chocolate lollies, made more available of late by their appearance in our supermarket’s frozen section. A shallow thought if there was ever one, and yet an altogether deeper tug was palpable. Conviction of the depths my husband quietly occupies; the solemnity of Lent; the significance of Lent and the opportunity it presents us each uniquely. Because we have a God not of shame or shallowness but of constant love and invitation to grow ever more abundantly in him and for him, in the quiet discipline of this season.
Discipline is not a term we hear a lot in coaching, or it seems many other spheres of life these days. Accountability yes, but not discipline. Its relevance and resonance lost perhaps in the modern move to more distributive forms of leadership and empowerment. But if my experience this Lent is anything to go by, I am reminded that this higher calling has its place in the achievement of most signficant endeavour; and a very signficant place in the life of the Christian faith-based Coach. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- There is a hidden place in life where God polishes us and prepares us for more, and this is the inner life in relationship with Him. He does this too in the outer life and this is called experience and learning, yet the inner world, away from the eyes and opinions of others, is a sacred space where only God sees and works.
- This inner space is a space of love and a space of challenge, to allow our ‘new creation in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17) to press out through the outward world of our mind, will, emotions into our behaviour and influence in the world as a blessing to others, as well as ourselves. And it’s a battle – the battle of our ‘flesh’ that at times is at odds with deeper yearnings, deeper desires for something that is not yet, yet to which we’re called intimately, personally. It’s the battle Jesus experienced from Gethsemane to the cross and which Paul, the greatest of the saints found hard’ “For I don’t practice what I desire to do, but what I hate, I do.”’ (Romans 7:15).
- As Christ centred coaches we’re called to help strengthen this flow in others. To be, for a short time, a catalyst in Christ, on the great and adventurous invitation of alignment between the inner and the outer life in Jesus; of others’ travel along the path of dynamic, co-creation with Him.
- And we’re called into living the reality of the ‘secret place’ ourselves, in relationship that is inward and honest and one to one with God, as a bedrock of life, daily; every day. Not just when we’re called to coach or when we might remember. And this demands discipline; inner, self-directed discipline. Because no one other than ourselves can prompt this act. And no one other than God will truly know the integrity and depth that we bring or don’t bring to this time, or indeed if we bring ourselves at all. Yet, it’s in this time, that God does His work in us, as well as being the wellspring of all we have potential to bring into the world (Jeremiah 33:3), particularly through our lives as coaches of others in Christ.
Evelyn Underhill wisely wrote that ‘Christianity does mean getting down to actual ordinary life as the medium of the Incarnation….and our lessons in that get sterner, not more elegant as time goes by.’(1). Stern words indeed for modern ears, yet it’s the lesson I’ve learned this Lent. And a lesson that’s not just for Lent…
Carole Rutherford Milligan is founder of KingsCompass, the Christian Coach Academy, a global, scripturally grounded, non-denominational source of training and support for Christian Coaches. www.kingscompasscoach.com. New for Summer 2019 ‘The 3 Companions of the Christian Coach’.
- Griffin E. (2003), p38. ‘Evelyn Underhill, Essential Writings’. Published by Orbis Books, NY.
Bible quotations from the World English Bible (2014) Pinch Village LLC.