Daylight saving time ends this weekend, that amazing time of year when we can combine our love of sleep with fuzzy math skills.
"If I set the clock back one hour last night that means I still have 43 minutes to sleep. If I forgot to set it back then I am an hour early... or am I two hours late? Aargh!"
Unfortunately that extra hour of sleep on time change weekend manages to elude me. My body and brain think they know what time it is, and they won't be fooled by numbers on a clock. My habit of getting up at 6:30am is just too strongly ingrained in me, so when by eyes snap open, I'm awake!
Eventually I do acclimate to the time change. It takes a few days, or maybe a few weeks, but eventually I get used to it.
A new habit is created, and a new normal is found.
A new habit isn't always an easy thing to achieve. I used to be very frustrated with myself when I tried to fix my spiritual life by trying to fix my spiritual habits. Bible reading. Memory work. Journalling. Corporate Bible study – every time I set my mind to fix something and didn’t succeed I felt like a failure! I could never seem to achieve the new normal that included these valuable things.
We’ve all heard the adage that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, when in actual fact it is closer to 66 days. Change doesn’t happen overnight, particularly when it comes to spiritual disciplines. It takes purpose, it takes intentionality, and it takes time.
- Purpose: Why are you trying to change your behaviour? Are you looking to get into the Word just so you can say you have done it – to check it off your spiritual checklist – or are you trying to know the heart of God as you live out your faith in the world? Are you committing the Bible to memory in order to train your memory or to train yourself in righteousness?
Proverbs 3:1 says, “Do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments.” Knowledge of God’s teaching is a good thing, but let your heart lead you as you live it out. If you want a new normal, ask yourself what's your why and let it fuel your action.
- Intentionality: Are you focused on the spiritual discipline and single-minded in your pursuit of it? Devotion doesn’t come by accident, nor does it come by osmosis. I don't receive the blessing and benefit of spiritual journalling unless I am doing only that. I can't be making supper, trolling my friends on Instagram, helping the kids with homework while I am journalling - frankly I can't even handle someone walking into the room and asking me a question! I need to be so intentional with that time and focused on the task so that I don’t allow even the smallest thing distract me. If you want a new normal, pursue God with intentionality.
- Time: How much time are you devoting to the spiritual disciplines? Even though I know that reading a few verses of Scripture and then closing my Bible doesn't make room for God, the other things in my life just zap my time away. Reading fiction books, going for a walk, and spending time with my family are not a waste of time because they are all great things, but they won't accomplish my heart's desire of falling deeper in love with the Saviour.
Ephesians 5:15 – 16 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time.” Walk as children of the light, spend time encouraging one another with psalms and hymns, and discern what is pleasing to the Lord. If you want a new normal, it takes time.
This isn’t a cure-all for the Christian life, or a three-step program for a more fulfilled spiritual life. This is just answering the question of how you might start to think about some godly habits to bring about a new normal. This weekend when you set your clocks back one hour, think about how can you pursue God with purpose, intentionality and time so that you can draw closer to Him in the days ahead.