Saturday, March 24, 2012
The Habit of Having Habits
"You don't have to keep [habits]. They keep you." --Frank Crane
Like most, I have a set morning routine from what I watch as I start my day to the order in which I get dressed to what I eat. Part of that routine includes morning prayer. Ninety-five percent of the time, before my feet hit the floor, my knees do first. Not right; not wrong. Just what I do. However, in being away on vacation, it wasn't until I was saying grace over breakfast on the THIRD day that I realized it was my first verbal commune with God. I was a little embarrassed with myself but quickly appreciative for the realization it brought me: how many other things am I--and maybe a lot of us--doing out of routine as opposed to authentically.
I recall hearing a sermon in church once when the pastor purposely made an un-Christian-like remark. On cue, several parishioners replied, "Amen." The pastor then stopped and said, "No. That is not correct. And now I know how many are not truly listening and simply responding out of habit." It brought shame to those "usual suspects" of the "Amen corner," but hopefully it brought conviction and awareness.
Like that incident, my absence of prayer caused me to think of other ways we are habitual and how we can be transformed by more awareness as well. How many of us sit in church every Sunday yet our minds are on the football game score or even what we have on our agenda for the week? How many of us end our conversations with family and friends with "I love you," yet harbor ill feelings in our hearts about them that go unspoken? How many of us walk in the office with a cheery "Good morning," yet cursed all the way into work about how awful the day already is? How many of us encourage friends to "Call me if you need me!" but check the caller ID to try and avoid them when the time is inconvenient to us? And how many of us bow our heads over every meal and recite the grace we learned at age 5, but never truly reflect on what it means to be thankful to have food on our plates?
We're all guilty of it, but perhaps it's time to be more intentional with our words and actions. Perhaps when we tell someone we love them, we need to add WHY. Perhaps if the morning is not going so well, simply greeting your co-workers with "hello" is enough. Perhaps instead of telling friends to call you if they need you, you just simply perform a random act of kindness for them without being asked. And perhaps when we say our grace, we actually thank God for each item on our plate from the peas to the carrots. If we truly looked at everything we did and said daily, we'd be surprised to discover how habitual we really are and perhaps, like me, we'll begin to desire something a little more heartfelt and honest.
Now I know realistically we won't be able to do this every day about every thing and definitely not overnight, but if we commit to truly start thinking about what we do and WHY, we can begin to take small steps toward aligning our thoughts, words, and actions more often, which can only breed better relationships, more truth, richer love, and, as always, increased growth for all of us.
And so as I challenge you, I challenge myself as well to do better--starting with an honest commune with God today, although it's already 2 in the afternoon, and I've long started my day. Because I'm realizing I'd rather be late and authentic than on-time and routine. Amen to that.