I’ve never been very good at following through with things I commit to do regularly. Whether it’s working out, preparing lesson plans prior to the night before, going to bed at a decent hour, or prayer and spending time in the Word, the pattern is the same. I start out excited and committed, yet within a week, two weeks, or even a month or more, the commitment wanes until I look back and realize it has been weeks since I’ve (insert commitment here). It’s a pattern I’m determined to break.
Implementing new habits is difficult. Doing so requires time, energy and motivation, which make keeping them up very difficult when something comes up and we no longer have the time, or we have a bad week and lack motivation to do anything, or we’re tired and can’t possibly imagine doing something extra. Unfortunately, this is what I see happening with my attempts to build new habits.
While there are a few good habits I’m trying to implement in my life, the one I want to talk about here is the devotional kind. Many of the habits I want would be good for me, but this one is essential. I’ve seen the difference in my daily life when I am spending intentional time with God, in the Word, through prayer, journaling, or whatever it is. Consequently, this is the habit I want the most in my life, and was a large part of the reason for this blog and the bible:365 project. But, we can all see how well that has turned out so far. And I think I know why.
It was too much.
I have a confession to make: I am a perfectionist, and when I do something, I don’t like to do it halfway. So, in creating this project I planned 4-5 chapters and a blog post a day. Not only is that not a small amount of work to begin with, I had to be thorough in my handling of the Scripture readings. Whether it was because of my background in Biblical scholarship, or my need for everything I do to be excellent, I was spending 2-3 hours a day reading, taking notes, and looking into commentaries and background material, and another 2-3 hours writing. I really didn’t mind putting that much time in at all, I actually really enjoyed it. I had been missing being in school (strange, I know), and particularly my Biblical Studies classes, so I was more than happy to dive right in, and it was all well and good.
As long as I was unemployed living at home.
Then I was teaching, and suddenly the time I wanted to put into this endeavor I no longer had, and instead of simply scaling back on how much time I was investing in it, I tried to keep it up. Didn’t work.
What it really comes down to is that I tried to take on too much too quickly. Everyone knows if you want to start working out 2 hours every day, you can’t start with that; you need to start with 15 minutes a day, and then when the habit is formed, increase the amount of time. Why did I think it would be any different with this? How did I think I could go from zero to 60 (or in this case, 0 to 5+ hrs a day) immediately?
Here’s where the God part comes in:
Change is hard.
I think we all know that, but this experience has made that truth even more evident to me. Change is hard, especially when we do it on our own. But that is kinda the point of this whole journey, isn’t it? Not a change to conform to a legalistic set of rules, but a change to be transformed into people more like Christ, through the power of the Spirit. “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind” – Rom. 12:2
Daily immersion in the Word is a major source for this transformation, to allow the Word of God to saturate our hearts and minds, planting seeds deep in the soul that will produce fruit for years to come.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
– Psalm 1:2
This is where I want my life to be, to delight in the Word of the Lord.
So, where do I go from here?
Sadly, I realize that I cannot follow with my reading schedule I came up with, I am too far behind, and it is too ambitious for me just starting to develop this habit of being in the Word daily. I hope it has been useful for some of you, and my setback here hasn’t impacted your goals.
This does not mean I am giving up on bible:365. The idea and the hope between the bible:365 project wasn’t the reading schedule, or the need to “get through” the Bible in a year, it was daily immersion in the Word of God, and that I am not giving up on. So, I’m going to commit to something small to begin with: one chapter a day. While I love the Old Testament, I’m going to skip ahead to the Gospels and begin the New Testament. I feel like I need to spend some time with Jesus this year. I’m not giving up on sharing this journey with you either, I’m just going to be more realistic in beginning this habit as well. So, I will commit to a post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They won’t all be the essays I’ve written so far, but there will be posts.
My pastor has this saying, if you miss a meal, that doesn’t mean you give up on eating. So, just because I’ve missed some “meals” doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on this.
For those of you who are still around, I thank you for your patience with me and I am sorry I haven’t followed through on what I committed to do with you. I would appreciate your prayers as I continue the attempt to build this good habit into my life, and know you still have mine.. And who knows, maybe come next year when I have the habit established I’ll be ready to try this ambitious project again.