Do you have a set routine that you follow just about every day? It may be a different routine for each day but it is still a set model that is followed on a regular basis. There are things that I do every Monday, such as prepare sermon outlines for the following Sunday. But every other day of the week has some set action that I’m planning to follow on those days. The routine for Wednesday is different from Tuesday or Thursday. When a person organizes their life into such a routine, the habits are hard to break. If we routinely do a particular things on a given day, we will likely feel some resentment toward anyone that interferes with our being able to get that job accomplished at the proper time. Also, if things change in our life and we need to change our habits, it often becomes difficult to follow through with the change. I suspect this is a lot of the reason many people struggle with retirement. Their whole system is being set aside so that none of the old routine fits any longer. You don’t have a definite job to do each day and it is easy to feel lost and even begin to wonder about your worth in society because you don’t have the same practices any longer.
There is tremendous value to having some routines in life. We notice in looking at the life of Jesus that He had some definite habits of how things were done. For example the gospel writers notice that it was Jesus’ habit to go to the Synagogue every Saturday or Sabbath Day. It wasn’t just his habit to attend. It was his habit to be involved, to participate in what was going on in the gathering. Think of the times the different writers note that He came to the Synagogue and was either given a scroll from which he was to read or took a scroll to read from. It was also the case that on many of those Sabbath Day’s he did more than just attend the Synagogue. It was common for Jesus to heal those who were sick, distressed and handicapped on that day. One of the major conflicts Jesus had with the religious leaders of the time was his habit of healing the sick on the Sabbath. Their mentality was that there were six days on which a person could come to Jesus to be healed. Surely, they could wait another day for the Lord to bring healing into their life. But there is something that stands out with Jesus and his routines. He never seemed to get frustrated with people who messed up his plans. More than once the gospel accounts tell of Jesus trying to get away from the crowd for his disciples to have some rest, and time for him to help them process the things they were learning. Yet when they went out to the deserted area or even into Gentile country to try to find a time and place for a retreat, it seemed to always happen that someone or some crowd would show up and Jesus would feel compassion for them and reach out to help. When it was the crowd he said they were like sheep without a shepherd and He taught them the way of God. When he went into the Gentile area to get away from the crowds a Syro-Phonecian woman sought him out to cry out for healing for her daughter.
What is a person to do if they realize they have developed some habits that aren’t good for them and that needed to be changed? I was visiting with a man a few days ago who was dealing with this very thing. He said for over forty years he had a simple routine that he followed every evening. He and his wife would eat together then he would pick up the newspaper for the day and sit down in a relaxing chair with a cup of coffee and his pipe to smoke. He has now started to have some problems with his health that may go back to the smoking. His doctor told him he needed to quit the pipe altogether immediately and that his problem wasn’t going to get better but would quickly get worse if he didn’t make the change. At first he tried to keep up with the routine of coffee and the newspaper, minus the pipe but he wasn’t getting far with that. Every time he sat down in that chair with the coffee and paper his body seemed to cry out for the pipe as well. He said the only way he had been able to change his habit was to break the whole routine. He quit reading the paper and drinking coffee right after the evening meal. He started helping his wife clean up the table and put things away and then the two of them went for a walk together. By changing the whole routine he had been able to quit smoking the pipe. This illustrates a huge point and that is that you can hardly ever break a bad habit without changing your whole routine so that the pattern you’ve gotten into no longer is the norm or standard for you life. To quit nearly any bad thing I must change the situation or the environment that made the habit a context.
A point that also fits with this is that if we have a group of friends with whom we have practiced a particular habit that we now wish to break, it will almost always require me to break the habit of getting together with those friends, in the situation where you are used to doing the things you now wish to change.
What are some routines that you have developed in life? How have these routines given context to something you are doing that is wrong or that you need to stop? How can you change the context so the habit can be broken? It all fits together.