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Tricksy Habitses

May 19, 2015

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

SnowWe all have habits.  Some are good, like going to the gym on the way home from work, practicing an instrument on a regular basis, or praying on our way to bed.  Some aren’t so great.  Let’s be honest, something very specific popped into your head when you read that last statement.  The fact is, we all have habits we’d like to cut out of our lives.  In fact, a couple of them may be pretty destructive, like getting drunk or viewing pornography.

The tricky ones, it seems, are the ones that don’t seem overly disruptive to our daily lives.  Overeating, ruminating on negative experiences, laziness… these aren’t great, and they can be pretty inconvenient, but they don’t have the same effect as the “bad” habits.  At least that’s how we think about them…

The reality is anything we’re choosing that doesn’t benefit us can, over the long run, end up being detrimental.  For example, sure, hitting up McDonald’s on the way home from work is quick, easy, and enjoyable (for the most part!).  But stopping everyday leads to some pretty bad stuff – weight gain, lethargy, skyrocketing triglycerides… at least that’s what happened to me!

A friend of mine once described the mind as a snow-covered field.  Every time I make a decision, I’m plowing my Jeep into the snow.  The next time I make that choice, I follow the same path.  As time goes on the ruts deepen, and the journey grows easier.  Eventually, the path is an automatic choice – a habit.  Now, if I decide I want to make a different choice, I’m plowing into fresh snow, uncharted territory.  It’s hard.  It’s slow-going.  And it’s hard to justify ignoring the perfectly groomed path we’ve spent years developing.  But what if that original path is a pattern of acting harshly toward your wife?  What if it’s turning to Hardee’s instead of Scripture in the midst of loneliness?  Worse yet, what if it’s a pattern of abuse or infidelity?  You see, by the time we recognize the destructive habits in our lives, we’ve literally practiced them for years.  In fact, they’re not even decisions anymore.

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

Okay, now I’m depressed.  I’ve got this well-worn path beckoning me over and again, and the prospect of creating a new, healthy path is daunting to say the least!

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Slamming into a snow-packed field soundssnow2 like a terrible idea.  If we’re alone.  But we’re not.  Christ promises us the Spirit, a “helper” that “give[s] life to [our] mortal bodies.”  We need not struggle in vain, because our helper, the God of the universe, is in that Jeep, encouraging and comforting as we battle for every foot.  It’s still hard work.  It still sucks.  A lot.  But the reward is far greater than anything we can imagine.

…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What’s our reward?  Love.  Acceptance.  Belonging.  Christ.

Obedience is difficult, but it isn’t an option.  Habits are tough to break, but we must break them.  Our very lives depend on it.


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