People are creatures of habit. For better or for worse, much of what we do falls into patterns and routines that repeat over and over again. And the more we repeat them, the harder they are to stop. Samuel Johnson, the famous 18th century British author, said that the chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. How true!
Many of our habits are easily observed. We wake up and go to sleep at regular hours. We eat. We work. We play. It is easy to forget, though, that just as many habits lie beneath the surface. The things we think and feel and believe fall into patterns, too. What kinds of habits do you have? Which do you nurture?
Charles Tindley was an African American born a decade before the US Civil War began. Although he was a free man from birth, his father was a slave and the younger Tindley was hired out from a very early age to help support the family. He knew very well the hardships of life for slaves. Even so, he hungered for knowledge and adopted a habit of learning. “I made a rule to learn at least one new thing—a thing I did not know the day before—each day.” Self-taught, he learned to read not only English, but Hebrew and Greek as well. He had over 8,000 books in his personal library during his lifetime. When the church where he had worked as a janitor granted him a license to preach, Tindley used it. He became known as “The Prince of Preachers.” Under his leadership the church grew from 130 members to more than 10,000. All of this from such humble beginnings, a love for the Lord, and a simple habit of learning.
Tindley was also known for his hymns, including Nothing Between. Tindley knew about habits. The words of this hymn warn us against habits that come between us and our Lord.
Nothing between, like worldly pleasure;
habits of life, though harmless they seem,
must not my heart from him ever sever;
he is my all, there’s nothing between.
While you are on your pilgrim journey, watch your habits. The chains of bad habits enslave us. As Tindley’s life showed, though, good habits free us to bear good fruit for our Lord. Let your habits of life be habits of Life in Christ.
Follow the Path!
[Use with A Habit of Decay, day 17 of A Labyrinth Pilgrimage]