I have read Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary several times now; it is a refreshing book, and I discover something new in it each time. (Read my review of it here.) However, this past read-through, I stumbled on something that gave me pause: a new window through which to evaluate my life.
In the first few chapters of the book, Warren discusses her previous tendency to get out of bed and grab her phone. It was normal for her to do, she explains, a quick hit of the Internet and the news before she began her day. But as she began to realize that our habits of everyday are what make up our lives and who we become, she began to wonder what this habit of immediately picking up the phone every morning was making her. To her discomfort, she realized that, whether she liked it or not, her habits had turned her into “a worshiper of glowing screens.”
For some reason, that passage struck me: who are my habits making me?
When I spend a little too long noodling around on the internet reading blogs or the news, who does that turn me into? How is my character developed or shaped by how many times I pick up my phone, and for what purpose? To what end am I evolving when I do particular chores or acts for others each day?
When you begin to think in this way, your entire worldview changes.
I think it’s easy to forget that acts of sin, or acts driven by the Holy Spirit, or just the benign ordinary things we do, are connected meaningfully to the people we become. These aren’t just incidents or disconnected randomnesses that occur over the course of a day that we must later try to remember and possibly ask forgiveness for in prayer; they’re part and parcel of who we are. If I make a habit of praising, I become someone who praises. If I make a habit of drinking alcohol, I become a drinker of alcohol. If I practice gratitude regularly, I become grateful.
And the result of thinking in this way, for me, has been twofold. First, I start seeking out habits that will make me who God wants me to be. Do I praise enough? Am I grateful enough? What kind of believer do I want to be, and what habits ought I be practicing to get me there? Alternatively, what person do I not want to be? As I am, right now, what do my habits indicate? What do they say about the person that I am?
Some of my habits are things I am fine with having. I drink coffee almost every single morning. Who does that make me? An awake person. And, sometimes, a person awake to God’s simple pleasures, too. I have dinner with my husband every single night. Who does that make me? A person who loves her husband. A person who enjoys the gift of marriage. A grateful person. But some of the other habits? Well, they’re not nearly so beneficial.
Look at your life, your week, today. What are the things you don’t forget to do? What are your ingrained habits, patterns, responses? And when you have pulled all of those things out and held them up to the light, ask: what kind of person do these habits make me? What characteristics or qualities do they produce in me? Am I okay with that, or is that something I want to change?
For my part, I have come to realize I do not spend nearly enough time either in praise or in gratitude, and I am going to make a regular habit of doing both more. I want to be a joyful person and a thankful person, not a fretful or weary one: those are habits that I can change. What do you want to change? Is there anything to subtract? Anything to add?
God desires to change us. But we have to give Him room to do it. And our habits are one of the best places to start.