I wake up barely being able to walk – my hamstrings reminding me that yesterday morning’s workout was something my body was not used to. Yesterday it was my arms and back that was aching. Sore muscles stretched and called upon to lift weights and make movements they have not been challenged to do in a while. Doesn’t it always start out this way? The body fatigues and groans when new demands are placed upon it.
I stop my hobbled movement with the realization that every habit begins this way, even habits of the heart.
At initial planning the establishment of the habit is born out of optimism, eagerness, and confidence. We determine to do something – Bible memorization, consistent prayer, journaling – with the best of intentions. We make lists, buy notebooks, print off schedules – all with hopeful expectation that some area of our life will be forever changed. And then we begin. The first day feels good. We may spend most of the time just getting our bearings and deciding out how to go about the whole thing, but all in all, we feel good. The second or third day is when the pain hits. We find reasons to skip this one day, or only put in a half effort. Our habit muscles are sore, and life is so demanding.
Muscle is developed through challenge – changing the way we used to do things and beginning something anew. The pushing and pulling breaks us out of consistency and complacency and strengthens our spirit-muscles. When adversity strikes, we are better able to pull out our super-hero abilities because we have trained ourselves to use power that is beyond ourselves – the Holy Spirit, the Word of God.
Muscle is developed through repetition – the daily use and commitment. The soreness from this new regimen can disappear in two ways:
1. by refraining from exercising altogether, which will remove the pain, but leave my body unchanged
2. by continuing with the exercise, which allows my body to adapt to the new demands placed on it.
Our spirit-habits are the same way. We can slip back into the old way of doing things to avoid the pain, frustration, or inconvenience and remain unchanged. Or we can continue the habit and allow it to transform us.
The question is, what will I choose?
Hebrews 12:1-4 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Christ chose the cross. He traded pain and condemnation for real results. He fixed his eyes on the Father’s will. Let us “fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.” Choose to continue the new habit until our spirits adjust to the change, and it becomes a part of who we are. The new muscles will form, the pain will subside, and out faith will be stronger.
What new spirit habit are you working on?