The longer I live, the more I believe the statement pictured above. What we do shapes who we become. Experience proves this to be true time and time again. Most of us believe that our habits or practices reveal what’s in our heart. That may be true, but it fails to acknowledge that our habits also shape our heart!
Baseball season is in full swing, and I love it! I believe baseball is the most aesthetic of all sports. There is an internal – intrinsic – beauty to the rhythm of a well swung bat or a well-played ball. Indeed, there is a habitual rhythm resident in all athletic contests.
A football player must practice – habitually – the snap count, if he is to get off the line and block so that his team advances the ball.
A tennis player must practice – habitually – her swing, if she is to place the ball over the net with accuracy. This reality extends beyond the athletic field as well.
A corporate attorney must practice the disciplines of research, logic, reason and persuasion – habitually – if she is ever to win the heart of a judge or jury. And yes, make no mistake about it – the best attorney’s know they must win the heart!
Parents encourage children to practice habits of otherness such as cleaning up after themselves, fulfill their roles and responsibilities within the relationship of family, etc. habitually if they are to grow into mature, life-giving adults.
Mathematicians must practice – relentlessly – formulas and patterns – in order to establish domains of meaning and purpose from complex numeric equations. Try as we might, it is difficult to find any sector of our society or experience in life which doesn’t require the practice of intentional and heart shaping habits!
We know that our habits or practices shape us. Even so, we find it difficult to practice them with consistency and acknowledge the outcomes they produce. A glaring example would be one who habitually views pornography. Over time, this habit shapes the heart, mind and body in a way that truth becomes imperceptible.
A less glaring, more common example would be education. As I write this post, two of my children are working on Algebra in the next room. Melissa has introduced the new material. She has already taught the essential concepts of the lesson with a humble patience that would rival Job’s.
As soon as the lesson ended, the kids wanted to move on to the next subject. Of course, they were not ready to do so because they had not completed the homework assignment, or the practice sets. The practice sets are designed to help the student respond habitually and rhythmically. No, it’s not terribly fun, but it is wonderfully life-shaping, giving and affirming.
When I speak of habits or practices that shape us, I overuse athletic metaphors because I believe they help us grasp this common experience. The habitual practices of athletes, which shape the behaviors of their hands and the desires of their hearts, can also serve as a metaphor for how the broader society and community functions.
David Brooks, in a piece in the New York Times, comments on the connection between the habits we practice together – as individuals – and their intrinsic connection to the larger communities in which we live,
The health of a society is primarily determined by the habits and virtues of its citizens. In many parts of America there are no minimally agreed upon standards for what it means to be a father. There are basic codes and rules woven into daily life, which people can absorb unconsciously and follow automatically, see http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/10/opinion/david-brooks-the-cost-of-relativism.html?&moduleDetail=section-news-2&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion®ion=Footer&module=MoreInSection&pgtype=article&_r=1).
Indeed! Our habits or practices often reveal but ALWAYS shape the interior regions of the heart. That’s why Pillar Community Church strives to be a ministry that shapes our desires toward Christ. A capstone of our mission is the practice of spiritual/sacred rhythms and disciplines. Disciplines that will habitually – over time – shape our heart toward Christ and His good in our life and the lives of others!
We call these habits of surrender and dependence. Practicing them, in community, leads to transformation. Indeed, the goal is not the discipline. Our goal – our END – is God. To celebrate Him and enjoy Him forever. In order to celebrate Him, we must become attentive to Him in the chaotic waters of our life. Attentiveness requires practice, these days!
Some of the practices that shape me are,
- Silence and Solitude – quite meditation on God’s Word in His presence.
- Contemplative Reading – a habit this fast paced world can ill afford to ignore.
- Examen or Review of the Day – reflecting on my day with an intentional focus on the places in my life where God was present, or I was absent to Him.
- Transforming Community Groups/Bible Study – I am an extrovert, so I love this one! Being in a Transforming Group and openly living my life under the Word and in the presence of others is a joy that shapes my heart!
- Corporate Communion – C.S. Lewis said, in Letters To Malcom, “The command, after all, was Take, eat: not Take, understand.” Communion is practice. Taking the bread and the wine shapes my desire toward Him! I am thankful that Pillar Community Church of Vero Beach (http://pccvero.org/) practices take and eat every week!
Those are just a few of my favorites. What are some of yours?
Disrupting to Renew!