FROM THE PASTOR
We have had a very hot summer. For many days the temperature was well over 100 degrees. One day the thermometer topped out at 118. We are all ready for it to cool down and become fall.
The other morning, on a terribly hot day, I found myself in the sweltering church kitchen brewing a cup of coffee. When it was done and I began to drink it I had to ask myself, “What makes someone brew a cup of coffee on a miserably hot day?” You are probably thinking, “Stupidity”. I thought, “Habit”. I am in the habit of having a cup of coffee during my day at the office.
Habits are a big part of every life. I have the habit of entering the church through the fellowship hall door. This allows me to walk through the building and check it out before I go into my office. This should qualify as a good habit. Some habits are bad. I won’t list mine. You probably already know most of them.
Most habits are just neutral. I always put on my right shoe and tie it before I put on my left one. That habit certainly comes from me being right handed. I have a habit of jingling my keys in my pockets when I walk. That is probably neutral, unless it is somehow neurotic.
Good, bad, or neutral, we each become accustomed to doing things in certain ways at regular intervals. Along the way some situation compelled us to act in a certain way. After a while we repeated the action without any real thought because it had become a habit.
One of my favorite stories is about the young housewife who asked her new husband for help cutting the end off a ham before cooking it. When challenged to explain this action, she said she was just copying her mother’s way of cooking a ham. When asked, the mother said that she had always copied her own mother. A little historical research discovered that the grandmother did not have a pan big enough to hold an entire ham. She had to cut some of it off each time so it would fit into her pan. A need had turned into a habit.
Since habits can have such a pervasive influence on our actions, we should put them to good use. Instead of just letting them happen, we should deliberately cultivate useful habits. My own coffee habit demonstrates that a habit can motivate someone beyond comfort and reason. We should let them push us in the right direction.
This is the best argument I know for devotional reading and prayer at the same time every day. Yes, you can do your devotions any time of the day or night. But, with consistent repetition, it can become a good habit that will carry its own weight and punch a spiritual hole into a busy schedule. There are an endless number of habits that express love and caring that can be developed. Make it a habit to kiss your family and tell them you love them before you leave the house each day. Greet your neighbors with a blessing in God’s name. Pray for people as you pass them.
A Latin proverb says, “A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.” The best way to get rid of a bad habit is to put a good one in its place. Two opposing habits cannot coexist in the same space and time. Don’t just try to repress an undesirable habit. That only creates a vacuum. Cultivate a good habit to take its place. Be wise and let habits work for you instead of against you.
Two key habit words are consistent and repetition. A habit can be as hard to make as it is to break. At first you have to think about doing the right thing at the right time. There will be other habits or impulses that resist the desired action. But, as you keep at it the desired action will become easier and easier. It will begin to feel natural. This is the sign that it has become a good habit. This is when it will work for you.