Habits, like most things, can be either really good or really nasty. Good habits can be things that keep us going even when our will power is gone. Or bad habits can be something that we can’t stand about ourselves and we want to change. While quitting bad habits is a big deal, I want to address the good habits for a while. In particular, what happens when we get out of the good habits? What does it say about us? How do we get back into these good habits?
Dropped the Ball
It’s easy to fall out of a good habit. Maybe you don’t even think about some things as good habits, but here’s some examples.
Not too long ago I went through a great eating habit program (I call it that instead of a diet, because it really was about habits). It wasn’t super radical. The program simply helped me to eat good, whole foods and stay away from a lot of grains and other things that caused inflammation. It helped tons. While the program lasted 30 days, my habits had been changed and I went long after eating very closely to what the program prescribed. My habits had largely been changed. But slowly, I let one little bite, one little food group at a time slip away. My new good habits slipped away and my old ones started creeping back in. Sadly, I still haven’t gotten back to that way of eating and I’m really missing it.
This is another area of my life where I dropped the ball. I was doing really good at working out each morning. But slowly I started getting out of the habit of getting up early and going to bed early. There was a pretty significant life change that happened at the same time so, as people have reminded me, it wasn’t just me simply stopping working out. But that is often what happens. A life change happens that interrupts our routine and throws our habits for a loop.
Frequenting a Location
Starbucks is my hang out place. I do a lot of my writing for sermons, blogs, and whatever else I need to get written or planned. But as with the exercise thing, the life change threw my routine way out of whack and I wasn’t able to make it there near as often as I would have liked. While my wallet is actually relieved (and my coffee consumption has not suffered) I haven’t been able to connect with the baristas or other regulars of the shop as I had once done. I have made it to the shop a few times here and there, but my routine isn’t the same and I don’t get to the location near as often as I once had.
Doing Things We Value
Writing this blog is one of the things I value a lot. I hope that it is something that has helped people think things through and something that resonates with them, but that’s not fully why I do it. I write these articles largely because I need to get these thoughts out of my head and down somewhere. If someone resonates with them then that’s all the better. But again, once that life change happened the location changed and my time changed. I wasn’t able to get to the writing I valued at all. This is my first attempt at writing again, and I must say, I am glad to get do it again.
Don’t Hang Your Head
It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve seen my fair share of professional baseball players completely botch a routine catch. As a spectator you’re either laughing out loud because it was the opposing team, or you’re hanging your head because your star player dropped such an easy catch. Often after finding the ball and throwing in to a base the outfielder will sit there in dismay with head hanging low and wagging in disbelief as well.
There can be a sense of shame that we put on ourselves for losing these habits that we love and things that are really good in our lives. “Things were going so well and then XYZ happened and I lost it.” Shortly after I got out of the habit of writing the blog, I felt a good deal of shame when I shared my hope of picking it up again. That person reassured me that I didn’t need to feel that way because of the life change going on, but that didn’t really suffice.
The truth is, however, that we shouldn’t sit there with head hanging down. Not because we still have some more “game to play” and more life to be lived. It might be true, but it’s not a sufficient reason. It very well might be that the circumstances in our life have changed and it’s a completely legitimate reason for no longer doing these good things. Again, understandable but not a sufficient reason.
The sufficient reason rests in Jesus. It’s because of His work and sacrifice on the cross that we don’t need to feel that shame.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2
Jesus’ work on the cross was a shameful. Crucifixions often were. However, it was the spectators who were feeling that shame. They were the ones who called out for his death. Now that they’re looking on and seeing Jesus hanging on the tree they felt a deep shame. Jesus, however, is feels no shame and instead despises it. He’s despising all of the shame that has ever come into the world due to sin. His very death as the sacrifice for the world is effectively His way of thumbing His nose at shame and saying, “no more.” Along with our sin, He is bearing the shame that comes with it.
I’m not suggesting that our falling out of a good habit is a sinful act. Please don’t hear that. But the effects of a broken world due to sin include shame that we still try to mount on ourselves for various reasons. No matter what, Jesus is taking this effect of sin upon Himself and helping us realize that we don’t need to feel shame any more because He has over come it.
Picking It Back Up
This is my first attempt at picking up the blog writing habit again, and I plan on writing another post next week on how we get back into these good habits. So stay tuned.
In brief though, this is the first step. Realizing that there is no shame in dropping the good habits in our lives. Each day is a new day and God’s mercies are new each day. Over and over again He gives us a fresh start and another opportunity to pick the ball up again. Jesus has overcome the guilt and shame that we try to heap upon ourselves and reminds us of the freedom that we have in Him. Start there, as you consider what good habits you want to pick up again or get started for the first time.