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You bring that out in me

Carl Jung told us 'everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.' He was spot on with that one! In a sense, all of us have experienced the best and worst at times, attitudes, and what I shall call 'heart moments'. Moments when it just seems you will burst with excitement leave you feeling totally encouraged. Then almost without notice, another heart moment comes, bringing weight seemingly beyond your ability to carry it. I have no idea why life has to be so much like a "pendulum" swinging this way and then the other at times. With the highs and lows come opportunities - within relationship, ourselves, and our circumstances. We are given new insights into the tremendous blessings we have been afforded in life. We are also given insights into the "old habits" we "count on" to get us through - some of these "old habits" are more of a hindrance than a benefit. No wonder 'others' can help us see 'ourselves' in a clearer light at times! Our 'old habits' need a little revealing!

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 MSG)

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 - we do it unconsciously. 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, showering, and making the coffee while the computer booted. 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 in those heart moments. 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. but seldom the other. We have developed a "dominant" tendency which displays the true character of our heart. The heart betrays the "real you", does it not? 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, cuticles all chewed away. They are certainly not long, elegant nails today - I keep them trimmed because I am in healthcare and I do woodworking. They are no longer chewed to the quick. Why? I changed my habit as hard - as it was to do! What influenced the change? One semester in microbiology during my pre-requisites for nursing school! I took a culture scraping from what little nails I had left, then left it to incubate over the weekend in a petri dish with rich nutrients. Upon returning the next week to find a multitude of colored, fuzzy stuff growing in the dish, I was left with a pretty visible impression of what was 'under' those nails! Wouldn't it be nice if every "old habit" way of responding to life could be as easily seen as those fuzzy growths in the petri dish? Having the visible evidence of how these habits affect 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 of what has been there all along to become apparent - but can an uncontrolled environment do the same? As the pendulum of life swings, and we are surrounded by those who might just reveal a little bit of 'old habit' themselves, things surface in our lives. 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 isn't always 'evident' in our lives until those moments come. We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit present in our lives. He is the one who "captures" the heart moment responses. He is also the one who brings us into the "controlled environment" where we can see exactly what relying on these old habits will produce within us and in our relationship with others. He trusts us to allow him to help us change these old habits so they will no longer produce these "ill-effects" within us and within our relationships. 

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 "heart culture" of your life, there is a little risk, but the benefit of the revelation outweighs the risk every time. Just sayin!

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