Growing Habits

We’re packing up. Moving out. Sorting and sifting through possessions, packaging them in boxes. Making a pile of items to donate. Taking apart furniture.

As I pack, I can’t help but think about how I want our next house to be set up—and not just in an aesthetic sense. The process of moving stirs up a desire to renew my habits, to re-examine my current lifestyle and see what’s working—i.e. what’s helping me to embrace God’s will in my life, and what’s a distraction—i.e. what routines consistently draw me away from being more loving, prayerful, attentive to others, etc.

The thing about habits is they kind of just happen. But, they don’t randomly happen. No, we fall into habits—both positive and negative ones—because the conditions we place ourselves in make it easier (or harder) to actually do what we aspire to. As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “the willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not” (Rom 7:18). In my own life, many of the disciplines of Christian living that I wish were habits never make the shift Paul speaks of, the movement from aspiration to actual act. One (of the many) reasons for this is straightforward—I don’t arrange my life concretely so that holy acts become habits.

For example, when my husband and I were married two years ago, we initially set up desk space in a separate room of our small house. However, it didn’t take long for our “working areas” to slowly creep into our eating space, we even made a “mini-desk” next to the table—and we fell into the habit of making our dining room the permanent place for work, laptops, and books. On one hand, this was an efficient use of time and space. But as a Christian, I know Jesus Christ calls me to something more than efficiency.

The mere presence of so many distractions on the table negatively impacted my ability to enter into the simple sacredness of meals. On a practical level, it prevented meals from readily becoming a time of shared prayer and devotional reading. And so, as I look ahead to the time-consuming task of unpacking in a new house, I’m thinking about how I can arrange my life to promote habits of holiness. Simple things—like keeping extra shelves and cords away from the table—so I won’t fall into the same habit.

And this is merely one example. So many aspects of the Christian life we seek to live into as disciples—personal and family prayer, extending hospitality, living simply so as to give generously to others, and more—become habits only when we allow tangible aspects of our lives, the structure of our routines, to truly support them.  And so, with an eye towards cultivating habits of holiness, any major change in routine, i.e. starting a new job, going back to school, the birth of a child, and yes, even moving, can be an opportunity to step back and assess. To make the seemingly small changes in lifestyle that will cultivate the habits that, over time, can result in true growth as disciples.

Copyright © 2013, Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Reiss Vermeulen, M.Div., M.N.A., blogs, ministers in parish life and lay/deacon formation, and serves as a U.S. Army Reserve officer. She and her husband, Luke, have been married since 2011 and live in Ypsilanti, MI with their two young sons.

Leave a Reply

next post: Envy, the No-win Sin

previous post: Marriage Evangelization