Day By Day
Ever wondered to yourself how some parents manage to put up with the incessant cries of their infants? On many occasions I’ve sat amidst nursing mothers tending to their babies as they wail and scream away. Questions they wish they could ask their child begin to well up within; is she hungry? Is he tired? Is it too hot in here? Is it too cold? Unfortunately babies cannot talk, and so in order for them to communicate their distress to us they cry. This crying then becomes habitual and whenever they are upset they cry to let us know.
From an early age we all unconsciously learn how to create habits, good and bad. As we grow older these habits stick with us, becoming a part of the very way in which we function. We are often so unaware of our habits that it often takes a long time for us to notice that we even have them. Its almost as if in stealth-like fashion these habits crept into our domains, broke through security, hacked into our mainframes, and smuggled in patterns for us to follow. Or did they?
Habits are built through practice, constant practice over extended periods of time. Someone once gave me this analogy when explaining how to overcome bad habits.
Imagine a field all over grown with thorns and thistles, with grass as high as your waist. Now imagine trying to walk through such a field. It will most likely hurt the first time you walk through it, and the second time, and maybe even the third. But what is happening each time you walk through that field? You are creating a path, a path that gets easier and easier to walk through. This is exactly what happens in the brain when we try to break a bad habit.
We are so used to going down the easiest path that we forsake the difficult one. If trying to lose weight, we go for the fat-packed burger instead of the healthy salad. If trying to quit smoking, we go for the cigarettes instead of walking out of the shop. If trying to quit masturbation or viewing online pornography, we indulge instead of turning away.
It takes courage and consistency to walk through that difficult path, but each day you go through it, it becomes easier and easier to follow. Researchers say it takes 21 days to overcome a habit(1). The key is to take each day as it comes, imagine each day as a fresh new opportunity to walk through that field. Day by day your body will learn how to replace that old bad habit. But one must be disciplined and devoted.
Victor Frankl once said “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Though the habit has become almost second nature and it is a struggle to fight the temptation each time it comes, don’t be disheartened when you fall, simply pick up your cross and continue to press on. Therein lies the challenge, in our ability to press on and crucify self, so love can live.
Each morning wake up invigorated knowing that the challenge continues and ‘being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’(2).
Grace and Peace
C.S. Coker is the executive editor of the Letters to the Bride, a daily devotional, aimed at people who generally like to have their hearts, minds and souls challenged
(1)Why 21? Nobody really knows. Maybe because for many 7 is a number of perfection, and 3 is a number of completion. 7x3 equals 21.