Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Creatures of Habit

We are creatures of habit. That may not be a surprise to you - it isn't to me. I know that I am a creature of habit. I get up at the same time. I go through the same routine. I lay my clothes in the same place. I put the right sock and shoe on first and then the left (and I can't hardly bring myself to do it the other way around, it doesn't "feel" right). The hardest thing for me to do is to remember to pull a clean handkerchief out of the drawer. The reason - I don't do it that often. It isn't part of the routine. If I need a clean one, I need to get it out the moment I think of it. Otherwise I will be reaching for my back pocket only to find I don't have one with me - because I forgot to pick one up. Habit. Creature of habit.

What habit do you have? I know that you have many habits, tens, perhaps a hundred or more. But as I think about this, I am left to wonder about these habits. Are they good? Are they bad? Do you have a good habit or two that you do? Do you have a few bad habits? That is a good question.

What is a "good" habit? Reading the Bible. A special time for prayer. Weekly worship. Sharing the love that is in your heart with your spouse, your children, your parents. Walking with the Lord on a daily basis. These are all good habits. They are ones that you and I need to cultivate. But they are hard - aren't they? Some are harder than others. Take reading the Bible, for example. Why is it so hard to get in the habit of sitting down and reading the Word? Our sinful nature doesn't want to do it. It knows that the Word has the power of the Lord and to be immersed in it regularly will kill the sinful nature. Self-preservation - the sinful nature wants to preserve itself. To develop a good habit of being in the Word goes contrary to one's nature. How do you develop it? By action. Doing it. Day after day - reading the Word. The same time every day (roughly the same time). Asking the Spirit to help you, to fill you, to guide you to fight against that sinful nature. It isn't easy, but it is very worthwhile - for your spiritual life and your daily life.

Bad habits - why are they so interesting and so hard to break? For the same reason. It is natural for you to do that which is wrong. Human nature, the way that we are when we are born, the way that we live our lives, is a mess. It is easier to talk poorly about another person than it is to talk kindly about them. Why do you think it is easier to pass along bad news rather than good news? Why do you think that people are drawn to shows that have nudity and sexual scenes rather than ones that are wholesome and clean? Why is it easier to use a curse word than to praise God? Sinful nature, plain and simple. Why are bad habits hard to break? They appeal to our natural self and it is like cutting a part of ourselves off.

So how do we break these habits? Once again - through the power of the Holy Spirit, guiding us, strengthening us and making us new every day. Returning to the waters of our Baptism. Strengthened in the Lord, we are able to face those habits with that which brings real power to our lives. Trying harder doesn't work. You will fail. Being more "faithful" won't work. You will fall short of that faithfulness. Only in the Lord, only through the Spirit, only in Word and Sacrament can we find that which will help us in our lives.

So I ask you, what habit are you a creature of? Look your life over. I know that I will. I will commit to God my life - empowered by the Spirit. Lord, be with each one of us. Help us. And make us creatures of good habits.

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