Finding oneself re-engaged with something you thought you’d put to rest and moved on from can be disheartening. It reminds you how hard it is to break habits, even when you’ve spent a relatively short time developing said habit. This is why we need to be careful the things we allow ourselves to make a habit in the first place. Old habits die hard, and often painfully so.
We understand this easily enough when it comes to things such as diet, exercise, prayer, and study. We make these things habits because we know they are good for us.They help us grow. Bad habits, however, are often the ones that we cultivate unawares until they are entrenched. It is then that we realize how difficult it is to break them.
A year ago, I decided that certain arguments and conversations were pointless to me for myriad reasons. The first reason was that when I peeled back the layers and looked beyond the thing which I loathed and which those I conversed with also loathed, the similarity of thought ended pretty abruptly.
Secondly, the more I stopped to consider what really mattered in life, what things were like in reality, and not just theory, I remembered that life is messy. Perfection is not going to be attained in this life, and God specializes in making crooked places straight, offering beauty for ashes, and bestowing a worthy stride onto those who repent of their errors and choose to walk through the narrow gate.
I realized that man-made systems and schemes designed to try and stem the tide of history or redirect God’s rightful judgment are a waste of time that would be better spent learning to stay on the narrow path and encourage the fellow travelers we encounter at sporadic intervals along the way. It is human nature to grasp at the straws of things we think can control, devise formulas, and pretend that because we did it, others can too. They could, at least, if they would just do it the way we are telling them to do.
The raging legalist inside of all of us swoons over the prospect of an unmessy life, where striving and perfect law keeping elevates us above the spiritual peons below, too stupid and sinful to be as good as we are. Once you develop that habit or hang around people who have honed that particular skill, you find yourself doing the same thing. Even if you manage to break free which is quite a feat, just a slight deviation from the diligence required not to go there again opens the door to return to that particular vomit.
We Americans, in particular, are prone to mistaking accidents of birth for blessings, inconveniences for trials, and a life of ease for evidence of righteousness. It’s like most have never even read the Bible even though they claim to pick it up every day. I am, however, getting away from the point which is to be careful about habitually doing things that cause us to miss the larger picture.
For me, the desire to think deeply about the issues surrounding post-modern life and to converse with people concerned about the same things gave way to a habit of engaging in foolish and ignorant disputes which cause strife. The kind of habit that directly contradicts the command that believers pursue peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. There is no stipulation offered for those who happen to disagree with me on a pet issue.
One of the things I love about the Bible is how practical it is. When I stop and think about allowing myself to get sucked into some of the things I allow my mind to get sucked into, I end up feeling like a dolt and realize that I could have avoided that feeling if I had adhered to Gods’ wisdom rather than succumbing to my own prideful folly. Lather, rinse, repeat. Or in other words:
Old habits do die hard, which is why it’s best not to allow bad ones to form in the first place.