Habits: Becoming Ourselves a little at a time
There are a lot of big decisions that happen over the course of your life. Those big turning point moments that will drastically shape the way you live your life for years to come. Things like choosing a college or career, taking a job, moving, if and who to marry. These big decisions have long lasting consequences that are often difficult to change. There are also big in the moment decisions. Do I jump into this difficult situation? Do I choose to do something especially wrong or do I go with a heroically selfless option?
These kinds of decisions are very important and we spend a lot of time thinking about them. Not only the decision itself but even what method we use to make a big decision. Do I use pro and con? Do I have boundaries I’ll never cross? Or maybe I try to always choose what’s best for the most people. Certainly I pray hard and consider God’s will in it. Maybe even study the Bible with it in mind or talk to a pastor or teacher.
But here’s the reality of it folks. For all of the importance of these moments of major decision they are only brief moments alongside millions of moments in your life.
If we’re really concerned with making our whole lives good, lives which delight God, we have to think harder about all those little moments in between. All those decisions we make every day but barely consider.
Will I do the work in front of me the best I can? Will I be kind to a classmate? Will I be thankful to my teachers and parents? Will I be careful and loving in the words I use?
These little decisions made over and over and over again say as much or more about us than those moments of crisis or big decision. Philosophy uses the term Virtue to talk about this way of being good, training yourself to live and act rightly day in and day out.
And it is a kind of training. Being good, living right, showing God’s love is like just about everything in life. It takes practice. When the batter steps up to the plate she can’t be thinking through every step of the swing. She has to have put in the hours at practice, swinging again and again until the swing is as much in her bones and her arms and her hands as in her head. A singer has to know her pitch and her intervals before she performs, the pianist and guitarist have to know their chords.
It’s no coincidence that Paul uses the metaphor of an athlete to talk about the struggle to live into the life of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 9 saying:
24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. 26 So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27 but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.
We are making ourselves every day. We are determining who we are gonna be. If we want to be people who show the love of Christ to the world around us we have to commit to daily practices of Jesus-ness. We have to commit to the long struggle to grow in love.
Start small. Everyday be kind to one person. Tell someone you love and appreciate them. Stand up for someone who needs it. And pray.
You’re not going it alone. God blesses the little things. The Spirit goes with you out into the world and so do the prayers of your friends and church family. With God’s help we can grow each day in love, a little bit more like the One who loves us.