PRINCIPLE: “When you're in need of a habit, look to your habits.”
I hope this isn't too personal, but I want to share with you about my morning shower time. For several years I kept my shampoo on a built-in ledge on the side of the shower wall and kept the spray bottle of tub cleanser/rinse on a rack that hung from the shower head bar. After several years I changed the two around because the sizes of each dispenser had changed. It seems simple enough – except for the power of habits. After several years of automatically reaching for shampoo on the ledge, I found it was difficult to automatically reach up for it from the shelf. That means, of course, that on more than one occasion I almost sprayed my head with shower cleanser! I was amazed at how long it took me to get to the point where I automatically reached up for the shampoo. Reaching over rather than up had become an ingrained habit.
This repeated scenario set me to thinking about the power of habits. Habits, whether good or bad, are established over a period of time. And once ingrained they are automatic and therefore hard to break. That's why God repeatedly told the Israelites to form good habits. In Exodus, for example, God gave them the 10 commandments, the habits by which to live. In Leviticus He laid out worship and sacrifice habits to provide a framework for holiness. In Dt. 6: 5-6 He commanded them to establish teaching habits: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
So it is really not surprising that when His people started letting go if these habits, they began wandering into the land of disobedience and walking further and further away from Him. So God sent the prophet Jeremiah with a message (6:16): “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” He told them to return to the proven ways, the tried and true habits, of their ancestors. In other words, “When you're in need of a habit, look to your habits.” These habits were the paths that would return them to rest and renewal.
Centuries later Jesus offered this same rest through the same way (Mt. 11:28-30): “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Knowing the heart of people, knowing the tendency of humans to lose self-discipline and therefore to wander, Jesus invited His followers, and us, to take up His yolk, His habits, His way of life. “When you're in need of a habit, look to your habits.”
And what was Jesus' way of life? Time apart – alone – with his Father, seasons of prayer, days of ministry, and holy living. Then time apart – alone – with his Father, seasons of prayer, days of ministry, and holy living. Should ours be any different? Whenever we feel we're wandering away from God, whenever we feel apart from Jesus, when life is tiring us out it's time for a time out. It's time to get back to basics, to return to our habits. “When you're in need of a habit, look to your habits.” And the more firmly entrenched our habits become, the harder they will be to break.
Feeling tired, worn out? Have you moved, even so slightly, away from Jesus? What are your spiritual habits? “When you're in need of a habit, look to your habits.” The amazing truth is these habits do not constrict us. As the Psalmist wrote (119:32): “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” “You will find rest for your souls.” Whether in the shower or in our daily lives, ingrained habits are hard to break. So make sure the habits you diligently acquire are good ones. “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”