Forming Habit

I’ve heard someone say it takes about two weeks to form a habit. To get so used to doing an action that it becomes a habit.

Sleeping, eating, exercise. Habits can be formed and unformed. And then they become discipline.

And I’m one of those who struggle doing this. I am so quickly distracted by the immediate, the urgent, the fun. What’s needed and important can wait until later…tomorrow..next week…next month…

One habit that gets preached to Christians is prioritizing God. “Early in the morning will I seek thee” is one of the more famous verses to back this up. I remember being encouraged to make a list of my priorities, and God should be number one, they said.

I also remember an odd rebellion against it. “Make a list and top it with God” somehow didn’t sit well with me. It didn’t help that “accountability partners” would ask regularly: “Have you had your quiet time today? Why not? At night?! God should be first, not last!”

Then of course, there’s the bigger organization. Spiritual disciplines. Help methods that slowly mutate into requirements. And when taken for granted, they can come across as demands.

One thing I have come to be grateful for is that God is not threatened by questions. At one time, I came right out and told him, “I don’t want to put you at the top of my list, I want you to write the list!”

And for some reason, it suddenly became less burdensome. It now feels like driving on an unfamiliar road while getting instructions from someone with a bird’s eye view of the land. Not a GPRS. That’s impersonal. More like a friend on a chopper.

Another image from Henry Blackaby was driving to an unfamiliar destination without a map, but with someone beside you who knows the way giving directions.

And so you hear the directions: left at the next corner. Third right after the gas station. Oh, a detour? We’ll just have to go right, left, right…

Time to wake up. I’d like to hear from you, child. Talk to me?Just keep reading, you’ll find the answer…there! You got it?

Sometimes, this is what I hear:

Wake up, sweetie. Time to work out. You’ve been avoiding it all week. Just ten reps…or hold that stretch for 15 seconds, not thirty…I think you should drink more water. Yes, more water. That was just one gulp! Good. Now let’s talk…

While others might argue that I could be just talking to myself — after all, the voice doesn’t boom from heaven or even whispers in my ear, just a simple nudge in my head — I know that it couldn’t be me.

Because my voice would say just one word: Later.

Jesus promised: “My sheep will know my voice.” Asking God to write my priority list has helped me understand what to do when… and to know when I’m not doing what I should be doing if I really want to obey what God has written for me.

It’s not easy to make a habit of prioritizing God. Two weeks is not enough. But personally, the biggest factor for me is why. Why prioritize God? Just because he’s God? Because the priests and pastors say so? Because the greatest commandment is Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?

Although these are all good reasons, they never satisfied my challenging heart. Just like I needed a better reason than health and beauty to fix up my diet and exercise habits, I want — need a better reason to prioritize God other than his rank.

And he pointed me to the cross of Jesus.

Jesus, his beloved son who greatly pleases him, suffered punishment and death for no crime or sin. He said he would lay down his life for his friends, and he would take it up again. And no one was making him do this. He chose to do it. It was the plan that defeated the pride of the devil who wanted to be the sole object of worship. Jesus was God giving his life for those who didn’t care about him, turned away from him, killed him. Instead of demanding worship, he came to die.

And then that was when the fourth gospel began to make sense. “The apostle that Jesus loved” at first sounded so arrogant and boastful. Until I learned that it was simply that John had become aware of that so much, it became his identity: Jesus loved him.

Jesus loves me. Me! Why me?

But that was enough to start with. Put Jesus first because he put ME first. Instead of demanding his way and requiring worship, he “gave up his divine privileges…took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being…he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7,8)

Singaporean pastor and author Joseph Prince, in his book Destined to Reign, also talks about focusing on Jesus’ love for us rather than our love for him. The greatest contrast he showed was John and Peter. Peter, who boasted loyalty unto death for Jesus, was the one who ended up denying him three times. John, who only knew how much Jesus loved him, was the one who was at the cross and gave Jesus comfort by accepting the charge to take care of Mary.

Time with God is no longer on my list. After realizing all that God has done for me, can I be so bold as to simply allot him time in my day, regardless of how early it is? No. That won’t do. I wanna enjoy his love every single moment. Whether I’m reading my bible, cooking for my family, homeschooling my kids, cozying up to my husband, doing “ministry,” or surfing the net, I want to always be aware of his love, enjoying his love.

That’s the habit I want to have. The love of God, ultimately expressed in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and promise to return. And ironically, it’s not a habit I have to form.

It’s a habit that forms me.

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