Monday, February 3, 2014

Habit formation

Bad habits are hard to break.
Case in point: nail biting. When I was in elementary school I was a notorious nail biter. It was a compulsion. I couldn't stop. I would bite down right through the whites of my nails. This terrible habit, so engrained in my behavior, was part of my subconscience. It was so second nature to me that I wouldn't even realize I was chomping away.
My Mom tried to break me of my habit. The words, "Stop doing that!" in reference to my incessant biting will forever be in the back of my mind. In response I would throw up my pathetic defenses. I would point to my best friend and the severity of her compulsive need to not only bite her nails but move onto the surrounding skin beds. This left her hands in a constant state of disrepair. While one finger would be actively bleeding another was in its first stages of healing, only to be torn apart again in the not too distant future. I would argue in my defense that my fingers only bled SOMETIMES! Not all the time! Like I said, the possibilities for defenses were limited and pathetic.
The fact was undeniable, my habit was a terribly bad one. Biting my nails didn't benefit me in any way. It left my hands broken and raw. Sometimes they bled, sending me scrambling for tissues. And on top of all of those reasons to kick the habit, chomping away at one's fingers isn't the most flattering of looks. This habit has not one redeeming quality. And still it was hard to break.
Bad habits get engrained in our behavior. They become a part of who we are. Try as hard as we might, knowing that we should cast off their destructive hold on us, we often struggle to break free of their grip. Some of us never succeed in finding freedom from our bad habits. Thankfully, I'm no longer a nail biter. I hope my childhood friend has found relief for her broken hands, too.
Just like bad habits are hard to break, good habits can be hard to start.
There are a host of good habits I'd love to call my own. I should be in a better habit of keeping in touch with old friends. I should be more habitual in how often I wash my car. It would be a great habit to vacuum my floor on a certain day of the week and wash my sheets on a particular day, too. Yet, these are good habits that are sometimes hard to put into continual practice.
Reading the Bible is one of those habits. It is so easy to fall out of the habit of daily opening the Bible. I know, I'm guilty of letting this practice slip by the wayside when life gets hectic or I am taken out of my daily routine, even for just a day. If I don't work to stick with my good habit of reading my Bible every morning then I run the risk of letting it go entirely.
There is never a morning that I regret opening my Bible. This habit brings with it immense blessings. Bible reading has brought new light into my life. Scriptures has taught me valuable life lessons. Truths have been revealed to me at the precise moment I needed to hear them. The words of Psalms have given comfort to my aching heart. Paul's letters have taught me how to walk in obedience to Christ. Reading the Bible is not only a good habit in and of itself, but it produces more good habits. When we open our Bibles with a heart willing and ready to be changed and molded our good habits actually become multiplied. Obedience, patience, grace, love…the attributes of Christ in us are strengthened by delving deeper into the Word of God.
By coming to God with an open and willing heart we not only add on good habits but we more easily cast off those destructive habits that plague us. God is able to do the work of removing those habits when we come to Him, defenses shattered and soul surrendered. When we come before Him and truly empty ourselves He can remove what hinders us and replace it with the habits attributed to His Spirit.
There is no joy in hanging on to our bad habits. Just like nail biting leaves our hands scarred and sore, bad habits can be destructive for the soul. God wants to see His children freed from their destructive patterns and brought into the light of His good, perfect habits. Come to Him, get into His Word, lower your defenses and let Him bring forth good habits in your life.
You can start today. All you need to do is open your Bible.

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