Friday, January 21

Establishing Habits

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.--Hebrews 10:25

When my husband and I had just started dating, we quickly discovered how alike we are. Each of us grew up in very similar environments, and as a result, we share a lot of the same personality traits. We both exhibit characteristics typical of oldest children, and we are both type-A personalities (which, by the way, serves us very well in our respective places of employment!) Our parents did a lot to instill in us many of the same values they had been exposed to while growing up. The similarities in our personalities are undoubtedly the result of certain aspects of our upbringing.

In addition to shaping our learning environments, our parents also shaped our spiritual environments. Both our families attend church on a regular basis and have for many years. There were times in high school and early college when I wondered if going to church was something I did because it was simply a family tradition, or because there was something deeper going on. Sometimes it felt like my Sunday activities were more of a force of habit rather than something meaningful.

Even when I struggled with those questions and feelings, something inside me still pushed me to go to church. I have come to a point now where I realize that even if I'm not "feeling" particularly spiritual, going to church is a habit that I dare not let fall by the wayside. Attendance may be partially done out of a sense of obligation or a need for routine, but the truth is, it's a healthy habit that results in a deeper relationship with God.

I have come to think about church attendance in a way similar to how I think about spending time with my husband. Brad and I thrive on routine. We like to have our schedules coordinated and carried out in a timely manner. Just because we're routine doesn't mean we're rigid or boring or that we're in a rut. In fact, throughout this last week we have made a very conscious effort to step it up a notch in planning out our time together. As a result, we feel much more settled and have the time to appreciate each other in ways we hadn't seen before.

I think the same can be said of using routine to develop our relationships with God. Even if we go to church out of habit, we are still giving ourselves an opportunity to spend time with God. When we're not in the habit of going to church it can be very difficult to be receptive to what God may be trying to communicate to us. For example, when I hadn't gone to church for a number of months, when I finally did go I found myself thinking "I'm in church. This feels strange. How many people are judging me for not being here last week? How long do I have to sit here before I can get up and go home?" I missed out on a lot of good sermons because I was too distracted. Now that I am in the habit of sitting in the same section of the sanctuary each week, my thoughts have changed to "Here I am in my regular seat. What am I going to learn here today?" The comfort that goes with being settled into a routine makes it much easier for me to sit still with fewer distractions.

God commands us to go to church so that we can spend time learning about him and learning about how he is working in the lives of other Christians. This is such a vital part of the Christian experience that we can't downplay its importance. Being unwilling to go to church because we are afraid of feeling like we're in a rut is no good reason to make a habit of staying home. We must not give up meeting together with others.

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