British educator and educational reformer Charlotte Mason said, “Habit is ten natures.” She believed that when we develop good habits in our children, and ourselves, we will have “smooth, easy days.” Our modern sensibilities may have trouble with her quote, but basically, she says that it will overcome your natural tendencies when you develop a good habit. I don’t know about you, but my natural tendency is to lay in bed and hit snooze when my alarm goes off. I also prefer reading a book to exercising, but that does not mean that those natural tendencies are best for my family or me. Mason goes on to say, “Habit is inevitable. If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord.” (The Philosophy of Education, p. 101) In other words, when we fail to develop good habits, we will fall into bad habits, for creatures of habit are we.
Developing a habit is hard work. Last weekend, Pastor Jud Wilhite said it takes between 14 to 200-plus days to establish a habit. That’s quite a range; however, other experts on habits say it takes about 21 days to develop a habit. So why should we put forth the effort to go against our natural tendencies to create a good habit? Because, as Jud said, “What you do every day determines who you will become someday.” So who do you want to be next month, next year, or in ten years? Do you want to be known for your habits of prayer and reading your Bible? How do you want to feel? Do you have children or grandchildren who look up to you? Who do you want them to see you as?
I used to be great at getting up early to exercise and read my Bible. I developed the habit of getting out of bed when my alarm went off at 5:30 to catch a few quiet moments before my children got up. However, somewhere between child number five and now, that habit has disappeared. I am lucky to be out of bed and functional by 6:30. I set my alarm for 6, but I inevitably hit the snooze button and wake up closer to 7. It does not start my day off well. I’m usually rushed and then annoyed when my children are up and ready for breakfast before the coffee has even been ground. Admittedly, after five children in seven years, I was horribly sleep-deprived, and I needed sleep. But now, my youngest is three and sleeping through the night. At this point, I’m either going to bed too late or being lazy.
Lead Pastor Ben Snyder challenged us to pick a small habit and stick with it for the next 21 days. For me, I’m going to get out of bed when my alarm goes off without hitting snooze. My goal will be to do it every day during the week. I know that my days start better when I have that time alone in the morning. So what is it for you? Do you need to develop the habit of reading your Bible every day? Start with one chapter each day. You will eventually finish reading the Bible with that plan. Do you need more physical activity? Make a goal to spend 15 minutes outside most days, rain or shine. Do you need to cultivate the habit of joy? Choose to sing one hope-inducing song every day.
The change doesn’t have to be huge. Instead, make it something so small that it would be hard not to do it. I guarantee once you begin with a small habit, it will grow—and instead of one chapter, you will be reading two chapters or more. You will find yourself looking for ways to get outside more or find yourself singing throughout the day.
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”
When we develop small habits, they add up. Whether or not you choose your habits, you will develop them. You can intentionally choose to bring yourself closer to God through good habits or unintentionally choose to drift away by not mastering yourself. It’s your choice.
What do you want to be known for in one year? In 10 years? What habits can you identify in your life? Are they habits that bring you closer to God and your goals, or are they pushing you away?
Choose a practical and simple habit to develop over the next 21 days. Ask someone to help keep you accountable.
Heavenly Father, thank you for caring about how we live our lives. Thank you for giving us the ability to develop good habits and to change bad habits. Please give us the strength over these next few weeks to choose a habit that will draw us closer to you. Give us your power to follow through on our commitments and develop faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, amen.
This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.
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