Habit: “A settled tendency or usual manner of behavior.” – Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.
We’ve all got them. Some good. Some bad. And there’s probably one or two we wish we had. Some are deliberate and others are simply the product of time and necessity—our “morning routine.”
What are some of your habits? Take a moment and think about them, maybe write them down. Be honest. Which ones do you like? Are there any you could do without? Any that you absolutely should break?
Habits are powerful. There is no question about it.
In his work, Desiring the Kingdom, James K. A. Smith suggests that we are formed by our practices. What we do shapes who we are and how we see things.
This reflects Jesus’s own words, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Where we invest ourselves, whether it be time, treasure, or talent, that is what we will love and be shaped by.
So how do we make sure we are being shaped by the right things? What habits should we be forming (or breaking) so that, as followers of Jesus, we can be shaped more and more like him, becoming the men that God intends us to be so that we can influence our own spheres for the Kingdom?
To be honest, I don’t know. While there are some habits that all men who follow Jesus should cultivate – prayer, Scripture engagement, solitude, generosity (the fruit of the Spirit also comes to mind here) – our lives are too different from one another for me to suggest specific habits for you to form. But I’d like to give you a suggestion that may be able to help you as you examine your own life and set some goals for new habits in your life.
“Aim Small”…If you’ve seen the Mel Gibson movie The Patriot, you’ll know how that line ends.
There are various theories on how long it takes to develop a habit—anywhere from 21 days to 6 months. Wherever the true habit line falls, it takes commitment and dedication to hit that mark with a deliberate behavior (or avoidance of one) in order for a habit to form. The advice? Start small.
Small does not mean or signify that something is unimportant. Remember what Jesus said about small things? In Luke 16:1-14, Jesus tells the parable of the shrewd manager, and though that parable presents some significant interpretive difficulties, one point does not.
Jesus says that whoever can be trusted with little things, can be trusted with big things (v.10). The little things matter.
Life is made of mostly little things. Of course, there are big moments in life. Big decisions. Momentous occasions and opportunities. But those are rare. More common are the Tuesday morning issues. How we respond to the question our child asks…for the 12th time. Whether or not we take a few minutes extra on our break or use a sliver of our work time for personal business. How we treat that few extra dollars sitting in our pocket. What kind of lunch will we eat – should I get the fast-food burger, or maybe a bowl of fruit or salad?
We face countless “little things” every day. And they matter.
So, when it comes to habits, start small. Commit to a small thing first:
- 20 minutes of exercise a day, instead of shooting for 90 minutes of weight-training.
- Spend 5 minutes reading some news, instead of 5 minutes on YouTube.
- Commit to one sit-down dinner with your family per week – with no screens (if that’s an issue for you).
- Spend a few minutes each morning praying about your relationship(s) and how you interact with people.
- Make a schedule for connecting with important people in your life, even if it is only through text. Make a habit of one text a day asking how you can pray for someone, or just asking how things are going.
The point is to start with something small. Developing a simple habit will not only encourage you that you can do it. It will help you evaluate larger issues when they arise and make wise choices.
Wherever you need to develop or quit some habits – spiritually, relationally, physically, emotionally, intellectually, or any other area – the key to lasting change is to start small. Find something that stretches but doesn’t break you. Something that you can accomplish even if you are exhausted and feel like you could fall into bed with your clothes on.
Only you really know your life. You know the things that you are currently doing that are good, those things that are bad, and those areas in which you want to develop. Pick one of the latter two and make a plan for a small step forward. Offer it to God as a simple act of courage and dedication. Make it your loaves and fish, and see what God can do with it.