I have been trying to get the grass in my backyard to grow for a while. With dry seasons and warmer weather, it seems the dead spots keep multiplying. I feel like I can’t keep up with it. As I was thinking about this, I noticed something the other day that made me realize the real problem. It wasn’t the grass or the weather, but my habits. I water the grass, but I only do it when I look outside the window and notice the dead spots. I’m not consistent. I only choose to water out of reaction. Not out of habit.
Now, while I work on my poor landscaping habits, I thought I would share something that challenged me. This made me think of what many of us got thrown into in this season. Shelter in place hit, and we went into reaction mode. It became about survival, and we had to answer some new or uncomfortable questions.
How do I work from home? How do I keep my family safe? How can I provide for my family? How do I homeschool my kids? And for goodness sake, someone teach me how to Zoom!
It’s the reason store lines were outrageous, shelves were empty, and toilet paper somehow became the new currency! Those questions and reactions came from noticing dead spots and trying to fix them, as quickly as possible. And while the questions and responses weren’t all bad, some of them haven’t gotten us very far. We’re still trying to figure out how to move forward in this season.
The point is, when we simply react, we can’t grow. Habits help us grow and GO with confidence. In Luke 5, we see that as crowds learned about Jesus, more people kept coming to hear His preaching and find healing. This is a situation where it seems reaction would be necessary. Except we then get a glimpse of Jesus’ habits in verse 16. It says,
“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5:16 NLT)
Jesus had a built-in habit of withdrawing for prayer. How much more we need this! See, if we have core habits built, we can still grow in seasons that reaction is necessary. A successful quarterback can react to a changing defense because he has the built-in habits and training to know what play to run instead. If I had the built-in habits of caring for my grass, I would be more aware of how to react in helping those dead spots grow. Same goes for dead spots in our lives.
So, as we move forward in this season what habits can we form now to help us grow? Let me give you just two.
1. Habits of seeking God daily
We saw Jesus model this for us in Luke 5, just as we read above. You hear us challenge you with this one a lot, maybe you’re tired of hearing it. Maybe you’re tempted to stop reading. That’s fine, just go read your Bible instead. But if you are still reading, here’s why it’s vital that you’re seeking God daily.
Nothing else lasts like God’s Word.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8 ESV)
So, while situations and circumstances change, God’s Word doesn’t. We may be sheltered at home, or starting to slowly get back to normal, but God Word says, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV). We might face difficulty and pain, but God’s Word says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18 NLT). I could keep going.
You see, building a habit of seeking God daily gives us assurance and peace to walk forward no matter what hits us. Growth happens when we do this. As we build habits of reading the Bible daily, seeking Him in prayer, and being in community with His Church, we grow and react to dead spots with wisdom.
Start small. If you miss a day, try not to miss two in a row. Don’t get hard on yourself, just pick it up and keep going. God’s love for you isn’t dependent on your time with Him, but I promise you, as you build this habit, you will begin to grow deeper in love with Him. Which will set you free from reacting without confidence.
(For more thoughts on growing in spiritual discipline habits, check out Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Incredible book!)
2. Habits of loving others freely
What if we loved others not out of reaction but action? Choosing to love people not just when they really need it, but because God says He loves them. If we have a built-in habit of loving others freely, our natural reaction when we see dead spots (someone in need) will be to love others.
Jesus showed us what this looks like. He modeled the greatest act of love in that while we were still sinners, He died for us! (Romans 5:8). He humbled Himself to the position of a slave, and we’re challenged to do the same! (Philippians 2:5-11).
The point is, we should be people marked by the love of Jesus. He didn’t just love those easy to love, He loved even when it was difficult (I mean somehow, He still loves a broken person like me!). So, I should choose to do the same.
Build habits to love others. Next time you see your neighbor don’t just wave, ask how they’re really doing. Send a note to a friend or family member letting them know you love them. Choose to be kind to the rude person rushing through the store. I know you’d really like to give him a fist to the face but give him your spot in line instead. Not because they all asked for it, or even did anything to deserve it, but because Jesus loves them. Make a habit of freely loving others.
What habits can you build to launch you out of reaction mode? To react with wisdom and confidence instead? To respond with God’s love? To have assurance of His peace? While I work on my landscaping habits, I’m also working on these. Would you join me in that?
How different would the world be if we were people marked by these habits? Don’t wait, choose to start building these habits today.