Why I Believe in Habits
Every morning, I follow a similar routine.
1. Waddle half asleep to the kitchen. 2. Turn on the kettle. 3. Put ground coffee in the French press. 4. Set out the vitamins for my wife, daughter and I.
Recently I found myself setting out vitamins but something didn't seem quite right. It was 4:30 in the afternoon.
I had put the kettle on for tea to help with a raging sinus infection and the decimation of my throat, and something in my muscle memory - or my deep subconscious - or perhaps it was an antibiotic haze, whatever the case it triggered a series of very automatic actions.
Routine is the enemy of the modern world. We talk about things as "routine" with the same facial expression as the words "cheap" or "fake." Routine is our enemy because it makes the statement that perhaps every moment of our existence isn't a wild new adventure. In a culture of new, routine is a blockade to progress, to happiness and even to vitality.
However, if we're honest and we look at our life under the microscope we realize there is much more that falls under the category of "routine" than perhaps anything else. Routine is natural. New is not always natural.
Now, please don't misunderstand. I like to shake it up as much as the next person - as a restless person with an NF temperament, I need to throw things into a whirlwind just for the sake of seeing what else may happen. But I can say with some certainty -
the most significant points of growth - spiritual, emotional, and even physical - in my life have come from energy-sustaining, path-blazing, well-worn habits.
There are routines that give us life and the primary way they do that is by tapping into that spirit within us - the Spirit with which we're trying to keep up (Gal. 5) - and creating automatic and natural responses.
Dallas Willard defines this outcome as "easy holiness" - a phrase that makes us cringe but in all honesty if we shape our lives with holy-making habits there is the high probability that we'll begin to do things automatically.
The kettle triggers the vitamin distribution.
The hunger in our bellies triggers our resolve against consumption.
The time spent with the marginalized, the cast aside, and the broken triggers our impulse to never divide people into "us" and "them."
Perhaps it's time for you to redeem some routine - to stop fearing it, to stop seeing it as a failure or a lower state of life, but to own the goodness of knowing what to expect and reacting instinctively to the movements God may be bringing into your life at a moment's notice.