It started with an afternoon in loserville, lost in the internet scrum of news and old twins videos and twitter feeds: the tedium, the hum-drum, the sheer noise of it all.
My frustration with life had been simmering on the back-burner in the weeks prior, but the afternoon brought it to a boil. This fall our life felt green and full, our marriage felt sturdy and well-watered. And I realized something had changed. I had swapped college for another part-time job, but that alone wouldn't completely change my life. Something else had changed too.
In James K. Smith's book, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, he writes about how our habits determine the course of our life far more than the knowledge we pour into our brains. We aren't just brains-on-a-stick, he notes: we live in bodies that are designed to routinely execute certain behaviors.
At one point, he asks a question I've been asking myself for the last few weeks: what kind of person are the habits in your life perfectly engineered to create? In other words, if you could take your free will out of things and simply set yourself on auto-pilot, cued only the countless habits you've already formed, what kind of person would you become in 10 years?
It's a question that makes me writhe. It's a question I hate like I hate the sting of rubbing alcohol on an open wound. I hate it because I'm afraid of the person my habits are perfectly engineered to create: a reactive, half-listening chaser of comfort and convenience too drunk on future visions to attend to present realities.
It's been a couple weeks since I started writing this post (go figure), but when I started the first half of my day was all about consuming as much as I could.
I woke up and gulched coffee. On my route-- my other job is delivering paychecks to the workaday folk in Eagan--I switch between NPR and sports radio. When I got back at noon, I munched on almonds and fruit while surfing the web. I try to only do it for 12 minutes, but any experienced surfer knows the one does not merely surf for 12 minutes. I pride myself on not buying fancy clothes or cars, but I buy up free information like it's my job.
Then I took a nap. Then I did something spiritual- read the scriptures, took a prayer walk, sat in silence, etc. - to press the reset button. By then it was 2:30 - 3 pm. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I flew through emails, drew up powerpoints, and prepped leader meetings just to stay afloat. I checked to see if that church has gotten back to me yet because I like being liked. The second halves of my day follow suit: reacting to life, feeling restless, and staying afloat.
If I asked you what it meant to follow Jesus, you might tell me some pretty things. If I asked you what it meant to live the good life on a daily basis, you could almost certainly wax about laughing hard, listening generously, living your truth, working hard, making memories, and cherishing loved ones. (You know, like those wall decals that make us want to get tattoos, hug our moms and live abroad when we pass by them at Target.)
But our thoughts are window dressing. Our habits reveal what we actually care about. Our habits give us an extensive look about what we think it means to follow Jesus. Our habits unveil our working definition of the good life. Our habits reveal the relationships that matter. Our habits don't show us whether we are forming and growing loves, but which loves we are growing.
If you want to know what you will be like in 10 years, don't look so much at your thoughts or even your intentions: they might show you what you wish to become, but your habits give you everything you need to know about what you are becoming...
said trev, mostly to himself.
Now here's where this is taking me, peeps.
I've read the book about how the 20s is our defining decade, how it sets the rest of our life into motion. And I am wondering if we are so desperate for our voices to be heard and to jump over self-shaped hurdles of accomplishment and status that we forget that the purpose of life is to learn to love well, and our 20s represent the time when we can learn things love makes a habit of doing.
Before any accomplishment I'd be proud to report at a high school reunion, I want to create a network of habits that aim me toward Love.
I don't know how many habits there will be, but I'm taking on one habit at a time and trying to do it for a month straight. Ordinary things, probably, like not checking my phone every 20 minutes or doing nothing for 10 minutes a day or finding 1 person I can bless every day or naming my frustrations with people before they seep out in stinky ways.
Stay tuned, friends, and let's form some good love together.