As promised, I got together my notes from Maria about our discussion the other day on habits. I have been so excited about writing this post that I have been thinking about it all day!!
As we talked on the phone Tuesday Maria made some very shocking statements. She told me about her dream (which I am not going to share – sorry!) and then about how when she woke up she felt pressed to pray. She began rebuking things that she and I had never considered before to be a demon – habits! As she was praying this she thought to herself – is there even a demon of habits and if so does that imply that all habits are in fact bad? Even the ones we would consider good? If they are all bad, what is it about the nature of habits that make them so?
The more she talked the more my wheels started spinning and coming up with examples of “good” habits:
- reading my bible every day
- flossing my teeth
- blessing my food
- feeding my child on a regular basis
- changing my undies every day
- I could go on and on
This strange defensive feeling rose up inside me – “wait wait wait – I have good habits you can’t tell me my good habits are actually bad!”
The conclusion Maria came to was that when you form a habit it takes the choice out of the action. You are doing that habit as an automatic response. It takes the love, passion, and desire out.
At first, you are excited “I am going to read my Bible every night!” You hop in bed, snuggle into the quilt, grab your Bible and soak up some God Time. But eventually, a habit is formed and suddenly one night you climb into bed and your bible is in your hand with out you even thinking about reaching for it. You skim through the next chapter on you bible reading guide and by the time you fall asleep you don’t remember a thing you’ve just read. Matter of fact the poor Bible is still on your bed getting scrunched up by your pillows! Okay, maybe that last part is just me, but none the less, I think you see where I am going with this.
As you’re on auto pilot skimming over your nightly read, there sits “bad habit” on your shoulder nodding away “that’s right, you keep reading those scriptures, you better read those scriptures every night! who cares if you’re too tired. who cares if you’re not going to remember it. you better read.” Then suddenly you have guilt popping up right there with bad habit sayin, ” if you don’t read then you’re letting god down” and now you’re in a real mess because here comes mr.legalist saying, “you haven’t even cracked open your bible all day, you have to read now!” You are so tired and not even really catching any of the words you are reading so you decide to stop before you finish your chapter and now here comes condemnation, “you never spend time with god. you are so lazy. you are such a looser you can’t even read one chapter. god is mad at you for not finishing that chapter.” Yikes!
My mind just about exploded at this point. I am suddenly realizing the depth of this issue! OF COURSE there would be a demon of habit! If the devil can’t keep you out of church then he will make it as automatic and redundant as possible. Then once the habit is firmly in place he will use guilt, shame and condemnation against you to the point where you are no longer skipping off to church full of sunshine and joy but instead sulking up the steps dreading the next 2 boring hours but feeling like you HAVE to be there. Going to church on Sunday is just what you do. Sunday from 9am to 12pm is the slot of time reserved for church and secret naps while you sit hidden behind the lady with the big hair. You are going because you always go, not because you are expecting and wanting to encounter God and encourage your brothers and sisters.
In the middle of this mind explosion I arrived (safely) at home and just had to share all this perspective with my Sweet Dad. He, in his ‘hmmmm..I don’t know about this’ voice, says, “Interesting…I’m going to have to look into that.” Which led us on a very spirited Bible search and discussion which I am going to spare you from and just get to the point already!!
We decided that there really is NO such thing as a good habit! There is only one reference to what might be considered a good habit in the bible, which I will post and discuss under the “daily dose” topic, and aside from that all the rest of the habits are bad in the Lords eyes!
In both the old and the new testament there are examples of God chastising the Israelites and Pharisees about their tendencies to perform good Godly actions out of habit rather than out of a heart of love and service to the Lord. They do them to be seen of man – because they are supposed to do them – not because they want to connect with God and please Him.
“Wait, Wait, Wait!” My dad says, “You can’t just throw out a blanket statement though and declare alllll habits as bad ones! What about changing your underwear?” (Okay, so his real example was making the bed every day but underwear is just funnier;))
From there we decided that there has to be a distinction between actions that you do that require no heart: brushing your teeth, going to the gym, making the bed, and actions that do require heart: praying, reading your Bible, kissing your honey when they come home from work. If the action is supposed to come from your heart but comes from a place of automatic reaction it has lost its ‘goodness’.
God isn’t looking for people to be in the habit of reading His word or going to church. God is looking for people who love Him and long to spend time with Him. He is looking for people who talk to Him/pray with fire and passion, people who treasure His word and plant it in their hearts so they never lose it, because those are the ones who can go out and impact the world of lost, hurting people.
Maria pointed out as she read my rough draft of this post that even heartless actions can’t really be considered a ‘good habit’ so much as just self-discipline. The more self-discipline you have the more likely you are going to brush your teeth every day or walk the dog. This might really seem like splitting hairs at this point but I think she is on to something. 🙂