“Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them…’“ Numbers 15:37-39
As an annual tradition, I start each new year in prayer asking God what new discipline He would like me to work on for those designated 12 months. The first year I started this practice, I felt impressed to give up watching all television and movies and after that year I found I really didn’t desire to watch either on my accord anymore. Another year I gave up alcohol (not that I really drank much to start) and after that year I felt the desire to keep the discipline. (This particular discipline has been important for me to keep since on occasion I still counsel individuals who have issues with alcohol and in no way do I want my habits to be a stumbling block for them.) And yet another year, I felt the challenge to read the entire bible, which is now a discipline I find great joy in and do on almost a yearly basis. But one year, I felt strangely led by the above passage from Numbers to wear “blue tassels” to remind me of “all the commandments of the Lord and [to] do them.”
That year instead of acquiring a new discipline of being more prayerful, of going to God’s word on a more consistent basis, or bringing my thoughts back to God, I instead discovered an interesting fact about my nature. You see at the beginning of that particular year I bought a blue bracelet made with some beautiful natural stones. And unlike the one in the picture shown here, this bracelet had tassels all over it which made lots of noise when you moved your arm around. So what was the lesson I realized about my nature? The lesson I learned was how forgetful I was and how ready my heart was to tune out the distraction and the color of the bracelet, so I in turn could go about my day without its disruption. I had the nature of a heart that wanted to wander and do what it desired instead of obey and be submissive to God and what He had set before me.
In essence I learned about my nature to go astray, just like the Israelites who God gave the command I printed above and who also gave the following warning to: “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today…” (Deuteronomy 8:11) Instead of the bracelet reminding me to pray, to read God’s word, or even to turn my thoughts to Him I instead instinctively learned to tune the reminder out. I felt like a complete failure every time I put on that bracelet in the morning and every time I took it off at night. But, then I discovered I was not alone in dealing with a forgetful nature. I found much commonality with the Israelites and their forgetfulness and also with the apostle Paul who seemed to have been taken through a much similar revelation as mine. The following quote is from Paul where he spells out very clearly the how and why our general human nature is apt to forget God and His commands and instead revert following its own desires:
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:14 – 24)
The blue tassel bracelet is all but a memory now for me. I have to admit there really wasn’t much left of it after the year was over. But the lesson regarding my wanderlust nature has never left me. I still desire to keep God’s commands but yet at the same time I recognize the fight I must put forth each day so the commands of the Lord to direct my life over my inherent nature. This struggle is not just my own, it is one mankind has dealt with since the Adam and Eve were in the garden and one we all must deal with in our own personal lives each day. We must make a choice who we will serve, ourselves or God.
When we chose in our minds to serve God and to walk in His ways then the logical next step is to set our eyes on Jesus and to walk in the grace and mercy He offers. In reality we cannot keep ourselves on the path of obedience out of our own initiative or with our own strength, but with the forgiveness and love of our Savior there is no excuse for staying off the path too long. It is our human nature to stray, but God’s nature to forgive and put us back on the path of His commands.
And by the way, if you have never asked God to reveal to you what new discipline He would like to see developed in your life, I would challenge you to do that on this Sabbath day. Spent some time sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His soft still voice and as you confirm what He teaches you through the scripture you read and the circumstances He sets before you. Finally, if you are wondering what my discipline is this year – it is writing on a daily basis. My toughest challenge yet, but I am thankful God does not expect me to do this discipline (or really any of my previous disciplines) on my own. He promises to be with me each step of the way - as He is with you too.