Back in the Habit

I have been going through a daily devotion on a Bible app with a couple of guys from the church, and this week one of our devo’s was on stopping bad habits. The advice was pretty simple: if you are doing something that you know you shouldn’t be doing, the first step in making a change is simply to stop doing it. In other words, the longer you dig that hole, the deeper into it you are going to get, and the quicker you stop digging the better chance you have of getting out of it.

It reminded me of something I referenced in a sermon a few months ago–the old MadTV comedy sketch featuring Bob Newhart, who played a psychiatrist who treated people for $5 for just a few minutes of counsel. They would tell him their problem–what they were worrying about, afraid of, struggling with, or whatever…and his advice was two words: “Stop it!”

Sometimes that is the best advice, as simplistic as it may be, though we all know it’s rarely that easy. I saw a sign once that said, “I have some bad habits I know I need to stop, but then I realized….no one likes a quitter.” That’s funny, but it’s not, especially if you have ever tried to quit something. It’s no secret that bad habits are hard to break, and good habits are hard to start. I remember the late comedian Mitch Hedberg talking about people who smoke who say, “You just don’t know how hard it is to stop smoking until you try to quit.” And his reply, “Yeah, it’s as hard as it is to start flossing.”

Establishing good habits and patterns for living is no easy task, but it is necessary, especially for the Christ-follower who wants to train to do right “habitually.” It certainly takes effort to build those disciplines into our lives, but when we relax and take a break, it’s much harder to get them going again.

Which brings us to the pandemic of 2020-21. There were a lot of habits that had long been established in our lives that came screeching to a halt in the spring of 2020, simply because the world as we knew it stopped and we weren’t allowed to do what we had done before. Some of those habits we probably needed to re-evaluate anyway, and in that light, the “new normal” of the past year has been healthy in helping us to prune some unnecessary things from our lives.

Some other things, however, were good things, but because of a worldwide pandemic, we had to take a break. The problem is, now that we are getting to the other side of the pandemic, it’s hard to start those good things back up and running after we have settled in to our shutdown schedules.

For instance, I have talked to more than a few people who are having a hard time going back to work, as in physically, at their work place. They have become very accustomed–and very comfortable–working from home. And it’s not hard to understand why: you cut off 10-20 hours a week of commute time, you don’t have to fight the stress of traffic, buy gas–or even wear pants some of the time! For some, they have also saved the cost of childcare, and lunches, and even wardrobe, so that the new habits of tele-working (and tele-schooling) were easy new habits to get used to.

But, for many, that time is coming to an end. And they are finding it hard to break through the inertia that tells us that a body at rest stays at rest. In other words, it’s tough to get moving when you have been sitting still for over a year.

This is certainly affecting us as a church body. Yes, we are just now getting to a place where some feel safe in attending public gatherings, though we have been back worshiping in-person for a year now, as of this week. But with vaccinations fully available and the plummeting Covid numbers, for some the issue is no longer the danger of a deadly virus. It’s breaking through the routines that have developed over the last year to get back in the habit of sharing community and worship with your faith family every week.

As we have said a few times, it was hard getting knocked out of our comfort zones last spring, facing quarantines and lockdowns unlike anything in our lifetime. But now we find ourselves in new comfort zones–and it’s hard to break out of those as well. The key is, we have to really believe that it is worth it to make the effort to get back to our new, old habits of church involvement once again.

I had someone admit to me this week that they have gotten lazy, and that it might require that we stop the livestream to get people like them to come back. We don’t have any plans to do that, since that opportunity has expanded our ministry to people literally all over the world each week, but we do hope some of those who have gotten comfortable on the couch can make their way back to our weekly family gatherings in the warehouse soon.

And let me say how exciting it is to see familiar faces returning every Sunday, as the world continues to open up. We will keep progressing slowly and incrementally during the summer months, which will give us some good practice to get things fully rolling again as a church body heading into the fall. I hope and pray that by Labor Day we can be back in the habit of our normal schedules and ministries at Shelby Crossings, making an impact in the lives of families all over our community for Christ.

Know that if you have not been with us, in person, over the last many months, we miss you, we love you, and we can’t wait to see you again. In the mean time, may the Lord bless you as you walk with Him this week.

–Pastor Ken