I have heard countless “New Year” sermons in the past couple of weeks. Across America, preachers from the pulpit have been pulling out all of the stops to motivate people to change their habits and behaviors in order to “Campaign for Heaven in 2007” or “Be Nice in 2007.”
On a recent habitual Sunday morning experience that I attended, a vibrant minister extolled his congregation to move beyond the past, to establish godly habits and set goals for a “Bigger and Better in 2007.” Around me, people raised their heads and fire came into their eyes. They became excited and easily rallied to the speaker’s call for repentance and commitment to a new life. It was a good sermon. I needed to hear it.
At the same time, I was left wondering how effective his words would be in the long run at affecting real change. It is easy to get swept into the emotion of the moment. And while the pastor’s words were meant to stir up faith, I wondered if the people were actually responding and activating their faith or just participating in the charged atmosphere.
In order for my life to conform to Christ this year, I need to go beyond all of the habitual sermons, study groups, worship services and prayer meetings. Somehow, in my mind, the word “habit” became a bad thing. I am torn between craving familiar routine and the excitement of spontaneity. If I am not careful, the very activities meant to draw me closer to God will create a dead woman on the inside.
It is time for me to move beyond what others say that my love affair with Him should look like. I crave to actually feel and taste what a praise relationship should be. How does a person rise every morning like King David and awaken the dawn with praise? What does it take to be so smitten with the Word of God that it flows in and out of life, exuding the presence and the peace of God to surrounding people at all times?
Often I have to lose the good parts of my life in order to appreciate them. For example, I never realize how much I appreciate plump, healthy lips until mine are cracked, bleeding and dry. At that point, no amount of minty, skin-burning Burt’s Bees lip balm can satisfy the flaking dry desert that has become my smile. I can hardly think of anything else but how much I wish that my face would be normal again. When this does happen, I promptly forget the previous state of my lips and continue to live.
Sometimes I cannot handle the pressure that the ideal of forming good habits imposes on my life. The paradox? What I want the most can only be obtained by consistently placing my time in the direction that I desire (or, in other words, by forming good habits).
In his book, Praise Habit—Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi, author David Crowder wrote about what it means to worship God with the ordinary. The concept is not a new one, but it is an inspirational one. It’s a perfect topic for starting off the New Year with a kick. Can praise be found in the morning eyebrow plucking routine? Or the crunch of the New Year’s resolution weight loss apple you are consuming during the commute to work?
I wonder what the secret is to moving beyond being a creature of ritual and being the real person who stops people in their tracks and makes them wonder where my beautiful wholeness has come from. That is the point of finding Him in everyday moments. Wholeness stems from embracing what He has done for me and from being willing to change and follow the leadings of His quiet, daily romance. God is a being of habit as well, especially in the consistent ways that He runs after the human heart.
Crowder wrote, “What would it look like to wear the identity of Christ in a way that defines us and our moments? And what would it look like to carry rescue into every moment?” Honestly, breathing His praise as well as His redemption takes place in my everyday goings. From my groggy cup of instant oatmeal in my dark dorm room, to my phone conversations, to trying to figure out life, to just thinking and breathing … I am attempting to discover what it means to put on Christ as my habit. I want to learn what it means to live under His covering and definition, even in the middle of just existing.
Maybe my problem is that I thought that the old methods would work forever. I am discovering that maybe God does not move as we always expect Him to. Somehow, He is found within the habits and outside of them, if we can only take the time to find the beauty He has placed in both situations.
I can feel the boiling underneath my skin. I can see God positioning individuals and the Church, just waiting for the great uprising of His beautiful bride. Wordlessly I sit back, wondering what to do. I am ready to run free from all of the layers that ineffective habits have imposed on my skin. I am ready to put on Him as my garment and see myself as He sees me, no matter how vulnerable that leaves me.