All of you, slave and free both, were once held hostage in a sinful society. Then a huge sum was paid out for your ransom. So please don't, out of old habit, slip back into being or doing what everyone else tells you. Friends, stay where you were called to be. God is there. Hold the high ground with him at your side. (I Corinthians 7:23-24 The Message)
By definition, a habit is an acquired behavior. We become so acquainted with doing something a particular way until it becomes almost involuntary to us. Think of the first three things you did today. How many of those actions are simply out of habit? For me, it was making the bed, the coffee, and my packing my lunch. Totally habit. No one left me a list of instructions requiring these of me - I simply gravitated to them because it is my usual custom.
In another sense, a habit is the "dominant" disposition we display. It is the most consistent response to the influences we have in life. When the pendulum swings one direction, we almost consistently respond one way or another. We have developed a "dominant" tendency which displays the true character of our heart. Over the past several days, I have been speaking a lot about the heart. It is true - the heart betrays the "real you", does it not? So, focusing on the heart is a good thing when it comes to understanding what is "dominant" in our lives.
Old habits are hard to break. I used to chew my nails. They'd be little stubs. They are certainly not long, elegant nails today - I keep them trimmed because I am in healthcare. Yet, they are no longer chewed to the quick. Why? I changed my habit! What influenced the change? One semester in microbiology! When I took a culture scraping from what little nails I had, left it to incubate over the weekend, returning the next week to find a multitude of colored, fuzzy stuff growing in the dish, I was left with a pretty visible impression!
Now, wouldn't it be nice if every "old habit" we have could be as easy to see? Having the visible evidence of its affect on our lives would be so telling, right? If we could somehow put every old habit in a petri dish, let it incubate in a controlled environment for a while, then come back to examine it, we might be surprised at what we see "growing"!
A controlled environment allows for the evidence to become apparent - but can an uncontrolled environment do the same? As the pendulum of life swings, things surface. Responses we thought we'd done away with in the past, or images of old patterns of sin come creeping to the surface. In the moment, we probably don't have any "control" over the environment, but if we were wise, we would reach out to the one who can help us analyze what lays beneath the surface.
We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit present in our lives. He is the one who "captures" the "culture" of our response. He is also the one who brings us into the "controlled environment" where we can see exactly what incubation of these old habits will produce. In seeing the evidence, he trusts us to allow him to help us change these old habits so they will no longer produce these "ill-effects" within us. I wonder if we realize just how much God loves us? He cares so much about the "old habits" because they have such "ill-effects" in our lives. It is his greatest joy to help us "isolate" what causes us the greatest harm. In letting him examine the "culture" of your life, there is a little risk, but the benefit of the revelation outweighs the risk!