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Habits

I’ve been thinking about habits this month. There are some habits, rituals and routines I have implemented in my life which are obviously good. For example, brushing my teeth – obviously good not only for myself, but also for those who come in close contact with me. A new habit (thank you COVID-19) is wiping down high-touch items in the church office every morning. Additionally, each January for at least 11 years, I’ve been in the habit of intentionally seeking the Lord through prayer and fasting. It started with a co-worker inviting me to join her as she united with those from her church participating in a 21 day fast.

Personally, it’s been different every year, varying by length of time and the type of fast. Sometimes, it’s been an all-out Daniel-type fast, eliminating all meats and sweets and processed foods. I think last year, I used the Whole 30 parameters because, honestly, I get really cranky when I don’t eat protein, and I just didn’t want to take that out on my ECC colleagues. Some years, I also avoid social media. This year, along with some other things, I’m taking a break from social media with the exception of work-related items.

I’ve been amazed at the number of times since I started walking this out I’ve reached for my phone, opened my Facebook app, realized I’m fasting from it, closed it, and immediately opened my Instagram app. STOP IT, ANGELA! I’ve also inadvertently replaced one habit – opening social media – with another similar habit – opening email. Typically, my first act of most mornings (when I actually decide to open my eyes rather than just peek enough to find the snooze button) is to reach for my phone and open Facebook to make sure I don’t have any notifications or didn’t miss something monumental. Now, I’m opening my email.

Sometimes it isn’t until we try to stop doing something that we realize how deeply rooted it has become in our lives. It has become a habit. When we recognize a habit is prevalent, good or bad, I think it can be wise to ask, “Why am I doing this?” For my situation, why do I reach for my phone and open social media all throughout the day? Is it because I am bored? Is it because I fear missing out on something? Is it because I like the feeling I get when someone likes my posts or makes a comment?

I recently re-listened to Pete’s message from our series on spiritual disciplines and was reminded of the idea from Jentezen Franklin that “habits become heartless routines.” So, when thinking about my spiritual disciplines and habits, it’s also important to examine the why. Why do I read my Bible? Why do I go to church? Why do I fast every January? Even good habits can become meaningless and mundane if I’m not careful.

Examine your habits, even the good ones. What are your motives? What need or desire do you think is being met by the rituals that fill your time? Are there things that you’ve allowed to creep in and pilfer from what’s most important?

Part of my January fast has been to look at the previous year and how God has answered prayer and worked in my life. As I look back on the last 10 months and all the things which have been shaken from our lives due to COVID-19, the word “shaken” stands out and reminds me of Hebrews 12:26-29: “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ 27 The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’”

God’s kingdom cannot be shaken. Are you willing to allow Him to shake the created things and make space for more of Him?

- Angela Hastings