I’ve been thinking about habits lately. It started as I began reading a book entitled, “You are what you love,” written by James K. A. Smith.
I find that habits often are seen in a negative light. There are the “bad habits” that know we need to change even though we often lack motivation and follow through. And surprisingly even “good habits” are sometimes cast in a negative light. Sometime the person who has developed good habits with self-discipline and consistency is seen as boring, rigid, unreal or inauthentic. People actually question whether these people live a life of freedom because they are so tied to their patterns of living. “Break free and live,” might be the cry of those around them.
I have noticed this negativity about good habits in the church among Christians as well; some act as if people are inauthentic if their practice of the faith includes anything historic, written down, or “habit.” The idea is that if something is not self-expression of what I feel right now, it is not real. But what if self-expression is really the outflow of the habits and patterns we develop by practicing them over and over again.
Certainly the scriptures and the church affirm that “putting off the old life” and “taking on the new life in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit” are good things; and these have everything to do with changing our habits. Perhaps this is what the wisdom of the church has been in the observance of the Lenten season; the ability for Christians to look at their lives and consider what habits that lead us away from God and his ways can be left behind, and what habits might lead us to God’s best for us as his people and witnesses in the world. Maybe this Lent can be days of new habit formation in your life and mine.