Words of Worth

Old Habits Die Hard

August 17, 2012

On August 2, Cammy mentioned that we were going to a faraway land and that we would return in a couple of weeks to share all about it. Well indeed we were very far from home as we were invited to India to teach at a conference attended by 1,000 Indian pastors, women, seminary students, and faculty. We returned home on Monday (although Cammy has traveled south in order to pick up her daughter who was being cared for by friends in Cammy’s absence) and would like to share over the next few weeks some of what we learned through this incredible experience.

Neither of us had been to India before this trip but we had done a lot of “research” beforehand by reading books, fiction and nonfiction, talking with people who had been to or were born in India, and even watching an Oprah special on a trip she had taken to India. We thought we were prepared for the lack of personal space, for the “assault on the senses”, for the noise, the smells, the scenery, the food, the culture, but all of that preparation was no substitute for actually experiencing India for ourselves.

One of the best ways we can begin to share about our journey is to say that very few habits we have acquired over time, served us well while in India. We all have habits-an acquired pattern of behavior that often occurs automatically and without conscious thought. Habits make our lives easier, require very little mental alertness, and quite honestly, without them we probably wouldn’t get anything done. However, in India, the most simple of tasks, like brushing our teeth, required much mental focus because if we went by habit, we would have used the tap water instead of bottled water. And even though we had our shots, took typhoid and malaria pills, we weren’t to drink the water from the faucet. Part of “surviving” in India, was to refuse to rely on habits of showering with our mouths open, wearing our shoes inside our apartment, wearing western clothing outside of the apartment, and eating with both hands. Many times though, when we weren’t thinking, we resorted to our habits and drank the water from the faucet and then waited to see if we would die within minutes of consumption. We even broke the dress code by running outside of our apartment in our pajamas in the middle of the night when we thought we heard machine guns. It was difficult to think proper dress code when we thought we were about to die and if we were, did it really matter if we were in western or eastern pajamas? Turns out the machine guns were firecrackers celebrating a wedding that took place in the middle of the night.

A lesson we learned in India was that old habits die hard and that breaking a habit that wasn’t useful in India required that we expend mental energy on the smallest of tasks which normally require little thinking on our part. It was necessary to think through the commonplace activities though, so that we would be safe and have a pleasant time in India. If we weren’t willing to exchange our old ways for new and better ways of living in India, we would have spent our time in less safety, strength, and even culturally acceptable behavior.

The Bible does not speak of “habits” as such, but much is implied about them, whether they are good or bad. For the Christian, the whole of our lives is one of being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Romans 12:2 reads,

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

This implies exchanging old, and sometimes bad, habits for the new (good) ones, in order to please the Lord. What a wonderful reminder about our Christian lives! We can’t just go through the motions of pleasing the Lord without thinking through and renewing our minds to do what is well pleasing for His glory. If we live for Christ in a mind numbing way, we may risk doing that which is not good, acceptable, and perfect!

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