Back to basics

written by Silas

It was in February 1991 that I embarked on my eleven-year law-enforcement career. Like any other officer in my shoes, I had to go through Bootcamp, or ‘basics’, as it was commonly referred to by recruits. An intensive training programme designed to break you down completely, only to build you up again.

Following orders became automatic. One day blended into the next, becoming progressively more challenging. But some things remained constant. The basics—squaring your bed every morning, cleaning the bungalow you shared with other recruits, drilling for hours on end, running everywhere—were imprinted on you through endless repetition. In time these disciplines started to include weapon drills, CQB (Close Quarter Combat) and arresting techniques, among many others. Becoming just proficient in these new drills was not enough – they had to become instinctive when faced with high-pressure situations.

Days dragged into weeks, and weeks became months. New skills were overlaid upon older, more established ones and cemented together through more mindnumbing repetition. It was only when we started with scenario training that the miracle took place – what seemed impossible at the beginning of basics now seemed effortless. And even then, the basics never stopped. We still ran everywhere. We still squared our beds and cleaned the bungalows every day. But the penny had dropped. We now saw the bigger picture.

But something strange happened when we graduated and were deployed to where we would be working. For many, if not all of us, the priority of paying attention to the basics started to slip. We were busy, with many demands on our time. The disciplines that stood us in such good stead in training now seemed superfluous. Life happened to us. It was not a conscious decision; instead, lack of paying attention to the basics crept up and overtook us without us realising. We quickly found out what separated the professionals (special forces) from the run-of-the-mill officers, and it was undeniable. It was their attention to detail and commitment to continue practising the basic disciplines installed in Bootcamp.

In some ways, the Christian life is not so much different from my years in law enforcement. Paying attention to the basic disciplines of your faith is essential if you want to flourish in your walk with the Lord. Jim Rohn, speaker and author of numerous books, including the bestseller “The Five Major Pieces to The Life Puzzle”, makes the following statement: “Small disciplines lead to great accomplishments. When (ordinary) people give care and attention to important matters, their own growth into greatness merely awaits the passage of time. Both small disciplines and minor mistakes in judgement tend to accumulate the former to our benefit and the latter to our detriment.”

Determining what small disciplines we should be investing in to be useful for God, where we live, is essential. Getting back to the basics would probably include spending daily time reading God’s Word, seeking His face in prayer and worship, to mention but a few. But for most of us, we probably need some disciplines that are a bit more practical. For me, these include:

  • completing a daily devotional using an app called Lectio 365

  • following a reading plan on YouVersion

  • praying through my prayer lists using apps like InnerRoom or PrayerMate

  • praying with my wife before going to sleep

So why then do we neglect these small disciplines? The answer is as simple as it is profound. The things that are easy to do (and yes, these small disciplines mentioned above are easy to do) are also easy not to do! Here’s one definition of failure: “Failure is nothing more than a few errors in judgement repeated every day.” Rohn then goes on to ask why someone would make an error in judgement and then be foolish enough to repeat it every day? The answer – because he or she “did not think it matters.”

Ouch! I don’t know about you, but that hits pretty close to home. We don’t think it matters, because we don’t see the consequences of us repeating these errors in judgement immediately. And therein lies the problem. Let us not compromise on the little things, just because we think they don’t matter in the bigger scheme of things. They do. May God reveal to us the handful of easy-to-do disciplines that will keep us in the centre of His will for our lives.

Silas is from the global South and is passionate about investing in the lives of the younger generation, specifically in the areas of leadership, discovering your God-given purpose and spiritual growth and maturity. He enjoys reading, developing training resources and spending time with his beautiful wife and twins. Together they’ve travelled the world in obedience to God’s call.

Teams read the Bible with cultural context in Israel. Photo by Sarah Beth Pritchard