How are the New Year’s resolutions coming? Are you still going strong or already done?
As I said last week, 80% of you will be done by next month. But what if you could build in structures that allowed you to get to where you want to go? To be who you want to be?
For the longest time I felt like I had to do certain things in my spiritual life to be a child of God. I had to read my bible, pray, go to church (all gazillion services they offered) and serve. Now going and serving was easy. I went because my parents took me and I would serve in children’s church every couple of weeks.
It was the other stuff I’ve always struggled with. Ready the Bible every day? Praying every day? Sometimes I would do good…like for a good stretch I would be killing it. Then, inevitably, something would come up and I would forget. Days would go by before I remembered it and then BAM!
“I’m a horrible son. I’ve really messed up now. God doesn’t want to speak to me. I have to get right before I can talk to him again.”
I want to keep sharing with you what has helped me create healthy spiritual and physical habit in my life.
Identity Based Habits
Atomic Habits author James Clear (if you haven’t read this book, go buy it, read it, then finish reading this…you’re welcome) talks about the reason our habits don’t stick is because they aren’t who we are.
For example; I have over the past year lost weight, gotten off of blood pressure medication, started eating right and lifting. The reason I was able to do all those things is because I wanted to be a healthy person. James Clear argues that you have to decide you want to be that thing before you can actually become it.
That idea hit me like a ton of bricks…spiritually. I don’t do my Sunday School check list so that I can be a child of God. I am a child of God. Those habits grow out of my identity. I do those things because I’m his son, not the other way around.
I’m my dad’s son. Nothing I do changes that identity. So when we don’t talk for a bit that doesn’t change the fact I’m his son and he’s still glad to hear from me. The more we talk the closer we get. It’s literally the same with God. The more we talk, the closer we get. If we don’t talk for a minute, of course He misses us! He’s our Abba (daddy, papa) Father.
Whatever habit you’re wanting to create it starts first with your identity. I wasn’t physically healthy but I wanted to be. So I said, “I’m a healthy person”. Then I just did what a healthy person would do. If you’re wanting to be spiritually healthy it starts by understanding that you are God’s child. That is who you are. The next step is saying “I’m going to do what a child of God does”.
Easy & Obvious
One of our biggest hurdles to being who we want to be, who God created you to be is that we tend to go big. All that going big does is big failure. If I had tried to bench press 225lbs the first time I would have literally killed myself.
Small changes X Time = Big Results. It’s got be easy to start.
If you’re wanting to pray or read more Scripture start small! Read one verse a day. Pray one prayer a day. You’ll soon find that it’s too easy.
“Of course I can read one verse!” “Saying one prayer is pretty easy.”
Getting in shape? Start with one pushup. It’s almost embarrassing to do just one push up.
Every time you do that little thing you are making a deposit on your future self. Over time those deposits start to compound on themselves. Your gains get bigger. Your spiritual life begins to flourish. God moves in huge ways. Your health improves. You drop medications (consult your doctor before you do this). It all starts with easy.
Then you have to make it obvious. Say it out loud, speak it over your life. “I am a healthy person and will do what healthy people do”, “I am a child of God and am will do what God’s children do”. Then make that thing so obvious you have to take steps to ignore that thing.
Put your Bible in your chair every day. Put your workout clothes in your path. Set an alarm on your phone to pray. Make it so annoyingly obvious that you have to spend energy not doing it.
I have an alarm on my phone that goes off as a reminder to stop and spend time with God. I set out my workout clothes on our kitchen table. Why? Because those are obvious reminders of who I am and who I am becoming.
If I put my Bible in the bookcase in our room I’ll never see it, I’ll never think about it and I’ll never read it. But if it’s laying in my chair, I’ll see it. I’ll have to pick it up. If it’s in my hand I might as well read a verse today. Or I have to expend more energy trying to ignore it by putting it up. Make it easy and obvious.
I had honestly never heard this term until Atomic Habits. Basically it’s a mind hack to trick you into creating new habits in less time.
For instance: When I’m done clearing the table (after dinner) I will put all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. When I am done brushing my teeth I will clear off the counter. You take a habit you’re already doing and stack it with one you want to create.
If you’re wanting to start reading the Bible more and you’re a morning person you could do this: “When I make my cup of coffee, I will sit at the table and read my Bible”. Or if you’re a night owl “When I finish my ONE episode of The Office (I know…that’s almost impossible!) I will ready my Bible”. Whenever your stacking that habit couple it with the Easy & Obvious. Put your bible where it needs to be (on the kitchen table or wherever you drink your coffee, on the night stand or next to wherever you watch your shows) and then read your few verses.
With my workouts and quiet time my habit stacking goes like this because I’m a morning person:
• I set out my workout clothes, fan (for cool down), drink and Bible on the kitchen table (it’s right next to the back porch door where my equipment is) the night before.
• My alarm is set for 5 am.
• My alarm goes off and I get up, put on my clothes and work out.
• After working out I turn on the fan, sit at the table for a few minutes. Then I spend some time with God.
Stack the new habit you want to create with a habit you’re already doing and you’ll soon be surprised at how easy the new merged with the old.
Of course I mess up. I don’t always nail it or do it the way I would like. But none of that changes who I am and whose I am.
If I didn’t read or pray this morning, I am still His. If overslept and missed a workout I am still a healthy person. So keep pushing to be who you want to be, who God created you to be! Speak those things over your life. You are not your habits, your habits feed who you are. Make it easy and obvious for you to be those things and stack the new with the old.
It may feel like nothing is happening for a while but one day soon, you’re going to wake up and think, “Man… I have come a long way. Thank you God.”