Habits of the Heart

Did you know that one third of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions? The other two thirds, (if they’re anything like me, whoops…) are the ones saying, “Yeah, right. I belonged to that 33.3% of the population in years past and it didn’t work. No thanks.”

Last year, I tried a New Year’s resolution: start journaling every day. I figured, hey, my best friend Sarah has always been a journal-er. I respect her. I wouldn’t mind being more like her. Or, maybe one day I’ll get Alzheimer’s and I might want to remind myself of some important memories of my growing into adulthood. Maybe journaling will even help me recall details of my experiences more clearly for songs that I’ll want to write in the future. Whatever my reasoning was, I began typing (Yeah, not even writing. Hello, January 2012) away at wee hours every night. Well, I just opened up that journal document to discover my success lasted a whopping 19 days. Last journal entry: January 19th, 2012.

Hey, you know what? I beat the majority of Americans. Did you also know that statistics show that 75% of all resolutions last about one week? And only 7% of people actually carry out their resolution. Regardless, each time January 1 comes along, there is often a pull in us to change something in ourselves. We feel obligated to add new positive habits or be rid ourselves of what is unhealthy for us.

Lately I’ve been listening to sermons from a local church, Newlife Kitsap, where they have been discussing this idea, and a lot of what has been said in these sermons has helped to shape my thoughts in this blog. I learned in a particular sermon on this topic that Paul says, in Philippians 1:6, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Right now, there is already this good work that God is accomplishing in and through us, and He is faithful to complete it. So, how and why is this happening, and what can we do to cooperate with the grace we’re shown by the One working to complete this good work in us?

I learned in this sermon that “good habits get you ready for the mission.” So, we’re not talking necessarily about external habits that come in the form of New Year’s resolutions that are only going to last for about a week. We’re talking about the habits of the heart that affect us internally and will help us to grow.

What habits of the heart did the early Church practice? In Acts 2:42, it says, “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s supper), and to prayer.” That’s a verse packed with a punch. It’s meaty – there are a lot of habits in there, and it can be overwhelming to try and take on all of those habits at once. So, the first step is probably the most difficult, and it’s asking where we’re missing the mark. It’s prayerfully reflecting on the areas in our lives that we most need God’s grace to mold us and for His good work to shape us.

This is going to be challenging. Like any new resolution worth doing, it is bound to hurt and pull at us a little bit. By immersing ourselves in Scripture, entering more often and more fully into prayer, and participating in fellowship and communion with each other, we actually might be opening up a can of worms. We might expose our hearts to doubts, to questions, to convictions that we might never have encountered before. But I am convinced that that is okay. James 1:2-3 tells us that we should consider that joy, because it is when our heart is tested that perseverance and growth is produced. This year, my prayer is that we all might challenge ourselves and each other to strengthen or add at least one new habit of the heart that will produce the kind of growth within us that we never even imagined was possible.