My brother told me that he’d read once that people are such creatures of habit that if we frequent a public venue regularly (a restaurant or theater for example) we will use the same bathroom stall each time.
Are you kidding me?
That seemed to be the most absurd thing I’d ever heard… until I started paying attention to my own actions. That’s when I learned that I am a creature of habit. Yes, I use the same bathroom stall at church, at our favorite restaurants, at the movies, etc.
I also sit in the same pew at church, the same section at the movies, the same spot in my living room, and the same chair at the dinner table. I sleep on the same side of the bed wherever we are. I work out in the same spot at the fitness center. I have my quiet time in the same place.
I am a creature of habit. I suspect you are as well. We rely on our habits to help us navigate the ins and outs of life. With good habits the unfamiliar becomes friendly, uncommon gives way to routine, uncertainty yields to confidence, and stressful situations are transformed to delightful.
As we develop our habits – our routine, our comfort zone, our path, our circle of friends, our preferred bathroom – life takes on a rhythm that feels natural; we know when to tap our toes, sway back and forth, and move to its beat.
I’ve heard that when a personal strength is too strong it becomes a double weakness; so can a good habit that orders your routine grow so strong that it becomes a rut? Probably. Sometimes we find ourselves in ruts – doing the same thing over and over.
It’s possible for every bit of our lives to become rutted. Our work. Our ministry. Our family. Even our relationship with God.
What does it look like when God becomes a habit, or worse yet, a rut? It’s when we only think about God during the delegated routine religious parts of the day… quiet time, mealtime prayers, bedtime prayers. We may even find that we don’t think about God when we’re at church or Bible study. Sure, we speak about him, but do we think about him?
God is a habit when we don’t allow him access to our lives outside the banks of the rut. Time with God is as mindless a habit as going to the same bathroom stall.
How do we climb out of that rut? How do we bring God out of our routines and into our lives? We could ask God to shake things up a bit. But that’s scary! We don’t like it when someone is sitting in our seat.
I think it might be as easy as making a choice: choosing to recognize who God is instead of who we want God to be. God is not stuck in the bottom of a rut. It is God who lifts us out of the rut.
“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” – Psalm 40:1-3
God hears our cry for help. He lifts us up. He gives us a new song… a new rhythm… a new routine.
We must also engage our minds. Our love for God is not just an emotional endeavor. We must learn to love God with our minds – letting him challenge our thinking, correct wrong ideas and lift us out of the rut of mindless religious behavior.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
We don’t have to be creatures of habit. We can let God continually shape us and change the way we think, therefore changing the way we behave. It may be unfamiliar. It may be uncommon. God may take us out of our comfort zone, but he won’t take us there alone.
“This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
That means wherever you go! Away from your routine. Out of the doldrums. Up from the rut. Far from your comfort zone. What divine appointments have you missed because you were entrenched in your routine? To what new thing, or place, is God taking you? Do you love him enough to follow him there?