old habits

Thursday, 23 January 2014

So I'm finally making good use of a One Year Bible that I was given (too many) years ago as a Christmas present. I found the whole lot every day quite overwhelming, especially when I worked long hours, but after last years kind of patchy, hit-and-miss, I'll read a whole book today and then maybe one verse tomorrow and nothing the day after sort of thing, I thought it would be good to get into a proper routine. And after going pretty in-depth into Gideon, I realised how woefully I was neglecting the Old Testament, which I find much more difficult to just pick up and read than the New. So I decided this year to do the OT and Psalms. That was a really long winded way of saying 'I'm reading the Old Testament', wasn't it?

Back to the point. The Old Testament is indeed (at least for me) a little more difficult. Because sometimes, reading Genesis, its pages and pages of explaining lineage, that so-and-so is so-and-so's son. And so on. And then after pages of that, something really strange and mysterious will happen and it's all over in a paragraph, and you're left thinking hey - hang on. What happened there, what was that? And it sends me scurrying for a concordance/a device with which to Google. I love it - the mysterious nature of God, the things we will never understand, and yet there is enough to dig a little deeper, to ask questions, to uncover meaning. Every day there is something amazing to read.

So I am enjoying it. I don't always open it with excitement, to be honest, and sometimes when I see a page full of names my heart sinks a little bit. I don't go into it super-spiritual, or probably as reverently as I should be (I usually struggle to find the page whilst balancing a feeding baby and occasionally have to stop to burp the baby and hope she isn't sick all over the pages). Sometimes I manage to read a verse when I intend to and finish the rest hours later. Sometimes I think 'I'll look that up' and then the day takes over and I forget. Sometimes I read it and I'm so tired I can't recall for the life of me what it is that I read earlier. But most of the time I start it with a prayer. May your word change me this year. I have faith that it will.

One thing I've noticed in the OT is a lot of repeated behaviours. Not good behaviours. Mistakes are made by the same people time and time again. Or, one pattern of behaviour will be passed down to the next generation, and then the next. There is murder and jealousy and rage amongst the people. And it's easy to think 'That's shocking, I would never murder someone' or, 'how awful, I would never send a mother and her baby away to die, no matter how annoying said mother is' or 'I would never enter a who-can-make-the-most-sons-competition with my husband's other wife' (although admittedly that is a problem I will never have to worry about..!) and to detach myself from it. Because their world, with all its laws and customs and traditions, feels a million miles away from mine.

But though the circumstances may be different, these stories speak of old truths. Of bitterness, covetousness, jealousy, lust. It speaks of anger that overcomes you, jealousy that causes you to lash out, grieving, desperate sadness, and the ancient ache for a baby in your womb that feels so real and urgent it hurts. These things are still true. These things are real now.

And besides, how many times do I repeat the same thing even when I know it's wrong, over and over again? How many times do I respond horribly to something life throws my way? How many times do I make a bad decision even though last time it ended really badly?

The truth is, it's just easier to be 'the way I am' instead of the way I should be. How terribly easy it is to excuse myself from right behaviour because 'it's the way I was made'. It's like when you watch reality TV and there's always one person that really stirs things up, one person that makes everyone else feel uncomfortable, because they have to say whatever it is that pops in their head at that moment, even if there's no need for it. 'I just have to speak my mind, I just have to.' Really? You have to? Even if that thing that you're going to say is completely unnecessary, hurtful and is about to cause another person real emotional damage?

In the same way, I find myself going to 'default' mode and acting in a way that I know isn't right, but is just easier. For example. When something unexpected happens that will impact my life in quite a big way, I do this:
  • Panic
  • Get angry or upset or both
  • Start to make plans and control everything obsessively
Instead of taking a deep breath. Instead of carefully weighing up my options. Instead of, most crucially as a Christian, saying 'Okay, Lord, this is fine, you're bigger than this. What shall I do?'

There are certain things about me that are different to other people and that is fine. Not everybody functions the same way; the world wouldn't work properly if we did (and it would be extremely boring). So it's fine for me to be good at some things but not at others. It's not fine for me to know that my behaviour is wrong, even damaging sometimes, to me and myself, and to let 'the way that I am' take the blame.

I had a thought at the beginning of the year. I hoped that this year would be a bit more purposeful. That I'd take control over the things that I do. That I wouldn't let myself be as lazy as I did last year. That I wouldn't just say 'I'm going to exercise more' - I'd actually do it. That sort of thing. Same goes for my patterns of behaviour that I know are wrong. The things that I say or think that aren't kind. The way I react in a panic situation ... and so on. Because as true as I believe it is that life with God is transformational, and a lot of that transformation is out of my hands, I know that I need to make an effort too. Cutting things out can be exhausting and painful but in the end, so worth it - so worth it to allow God to take those things that I know are wrong and change them to something good and beautiful.

So. May this not be a year of living lazily. Of falling back into bad habits. Of settling into patterns that I don't quite fit into any more.

I guess this sounds ironic after the last post ... but I do think that it's possible to do both. To live life to the full and have fun whilst being responsible and living with purpose.

1 comment:

  1. I can so relate to this hun, thank you for sharing and for challenging me to also step up and address some things in my life. Great post :) x


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