Mar2SatMarch 2, 2019
As I began to read chapter six, which is all about habits, I started to think, “This isn’t really about ‘habits’ as I define them, per se. It is really more about ‘the water in which we swim’ like I read in James K. A. Smith’s book, You Are What You Love.” You see, in that book, the author talks about the ongoing influences that act upon us that we are not even aware of because we are in them all day, every day. They are just ‘the norm’ and we are not even aware of them anymore. He says it would be like two fish swimming past each other and one saying, “The water feels good today, doesn’t it?” and the other fish, confused, replies, “What’s water?” He’s spent his life swimming in it and has never had to evaluate what it is or what it is like or what to compare it to. If you are deep into the routine of ‘how things are done’ in this culture broadly, or in your life specifically, you aren’t likely to even consider how things are done, or why, or if they should be done, because it is just what we’ve always done.
As I was having these thoughts and making these connections from one book to the other, I turned the page to see that Darryl Dash was also quoting You Are What You Love.
I felt so validated.
But what I loved about Smith’s book and about this chapter, is that there is a green light to “fake it until you make it” to some extent. Do you know what I mean? “This isn’t true of me yet, but I’m going to act like it is true of me until, by God’s grace, it really IS true.” I’ve always been a proponent of that tactic. To some people, that sounds unbiblical though, so let me further explain.
Dash summarizes Smith’s thoughts by saying that “We expect we can think our way to growth. Smith argues that we’re lovers more than thinkers. In the end, we’re driven by what we love and desire more than by what we think. (emphasis mine) […] In other words, we don’t change through thinking. We change by changing WHAT WE LOVE (clearly, that’s also my emphasis through yell-typing, not Dash’s or Smith’s), and we change what we love through habits.”
Dash goes on to explain that if we want to love God above all things in our lives, we need to build habits that shape our days (like reading the Bible, making time for prayer, carving out opportunities for serving God and his people) so that we are in a position to come to know him and love him most. You might not love him as you want to now, but you WILL as you build the habits that enable you to love him more. Think of all the ways your days are ordered such that your loves are unintentionally, habitually, unstoppably fanned into flame for something other than the Lord. Are we waiting for some robust affection to spontaneously and supernaturally overflow from our stubborn and selfish hearts before we set into making habits of spiritual disciplines? It won’t happen. That’s not how love works.
Imagine your friend told you that he suddenly found himself overwhelmed with a desire to love curling more. Imagine he said to you: “Man, I wish I loved curling more. I mean, it looks like a fun sport, and I know a little bit about it and what I do know about it I like, and I’d like to get to know it better. But I don’t really have high affections for it at this point in my life and I just kind of feel disinterested, you know? Opportunities come where I could go and try it out, or I know it is going to be on TV and I could watch, but I just don’t really feel like it. You know? I just don’t know what to do about that. I wish I felt differently… I wish I loved it more.”
Now, if that was my friend, I would tell him, “Well, this sounds like an easy fix. Go to the arena! Watch the game live! Find a community of curling lovers and talk to them about the sport. Take some lessons, have fun, get to know the rules better, learn about some of the world’s best players. Find a group that meets once a week and schedule time in your day, even if only for 15 minutes, to read about the sport or listen to a podcast about it. I think the more you set habits that allow you to invest time and interest in curling, the more you’ll come to love it.”
Now imagine my friend is a man of integrity and means to be wholehearted in all he does. Imagine his response is, “Well, I hear you, but that feels so FAKE. I certainly wouldn’t want to start taking lessons or watching bonspiels until I have a great affection for it because that feels forced, unnatural, and maybe like I’m pretending something is true about me when it isn’t yet. I think I’ll wait until I LOVE curling before I get into it so that I don’t look like a hypocrite.”
OH, that I would not be that person in my relationship with the Lord! I want to love him more! And so why would I not build the routines and habits of my day so that I cannot help by have my affections stirred day by day? Why would I not intentionally orchestrate my days so that I say with my actions that he is worthy of my missing out on other activities, my sacrificing of sleep, energy, relationships, hobbies, work, and whatever else it takes to teach my selfish and lazy flesh that Christ is better! My spirit needs to rise up and teach my flesh a lesson on priorities and say, “Although my love for God is not what it ought to be, it will certainly NOT become what it ought to be by doing nothing about it, or worse, by fueling my love for lesser things.”
Dash quotes D.A. Carson to solidify this point. Carson writes, “The truly transformative element is not the discipline itself, but the worthiness of the task undertaken: the value of prayer, the value of reading God’s Word.” Darryl Dash summarizes that, and the whole chapter, by saying, “The point, in the end, is our pursuit of God. […] (The habits) are means to an end, and that end is God. Build habits that remind you that it’s God who you need in the end.” AMEN! I need God! And so do you.
And, note to self: you don’t need to wait for a Monday morning, a new month, or a new year to set a new habit. Let’s start now! Let’s set our minds and our time and our intentions towards God and let’s watch our hearts fill with love for him as we do.