Tuesday, Jan 7, 2020. At the beginning of a new year we might feel like getting a new start. We might feel like cleaning up in our life, and changing some things which caused us trouble. Usually, here we talk about our own life, about our own habits, about the patterns in our behaviour.
But it is not that easy to change behavioural patterns. Do you know how to change them? Patterns of behaviour are actions we do again and again. Habits are important capabilities of humans, let us discuss that in more detail!
Behavioural Patterns …
When you learn a musical instrument, you have to practice. We all know that. Usually we try to teach children, since there is a time in our life when we learn easily. When your body is still evolving, you can take up particular movements of your hands, your fingers. When you practice them a lot in an early stage of life, your body keeps them for your whole life!
It is not only the hands and the fingers, which you shape when you learn a musical instrument. It is also your mind, your ears, your eyes. You learn to listen in a particular way. You learn the melodies and chords, you learn how to phrase music, how to build tension up and keep it, how to play together with others. You learn to listen to others, to play in a team. Musical education teaches you so much, and you start to develp particular capabilities and patterns.
It is similar with all what we do in our life. Most of our actions day by day comes from patterns we have developed over time. Our reactions to other people. The way we treat others. The way we listen. What we tell them. All of it is patterns, habits, behaviour shaped over time.
To develop new patterns, or to shape habits, we need time as well. And we need to use the time by building new patterns. When you want to change a pattern, you need decisions. You need many decisions, day by day. You need to actively do things differently. You need repetition. You need to shape the new pattern. Without this type of active activity, you will stay where you are.
Often, we decide to change something. Then we do it once or twice. Then we realize that we fall back into the previous pattern. We are discouraged and we give up. The reason is that from the very beginning we have misunderstood the challenge. We need repetition. We need to build new habits. That is more a marathon than a sprint. Habits cannot be built by doing something just once or twice!
Develop New Habits …
Jesus also wants us to work on the behavioural patterns of our life. The whole New Testament is an invitation to discover completely new patterns: the patterns of truth, love, faith, faithfulness. The gospel starts with the command to change our behavioural patterns. Its language calls this “repentence”, and it is put into a clear framework. In the gospel of Matthew, we hear:
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3, 1-2)
The kingdom of heaven in at hand. That is the target point of John the Baptist. He is the prophet preceeding the messiah, he is coming to announce the “son of men”, which we identify to be Christ Jesus.
Sometimes people see Christianity primarily as a system of ethics. And indeed, ethics plays an important role. Behaviour is at the heart of our life. At the same time we have to see that ethics can only be understood properly if it is put into the overall framework of faith, which is deep trust in the love and truth and character of the eternal God.
In this sense we need to see that the call to repentence, which we hear from John the Baptist, is not primarily a call to some particular ethical rule. It is a call to trust the Lord. He calls us to base our life on his full trustworthiness. When we live with him in a relationship of full trust, we have the proper basis to address our habits and behaviour, our ethics.
Faith and trust is also a habit. Your emotions are linked to it. Your decisions. Your expectations. The perspective of your actions, the framework and compass of what you feel, what you think, what you decide, what you dream, what you do. John calls us to develop the habit of trusting the Lord. He calls us to develop the habit of living based on his character, his eternal love, his truth, the fidelity of his whole existence.
To develop this habit of faith and trust, you need to take action. You need to do your bit, you need to practice. It is decisions today, in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, which need to be taken. Look into his word, the biblical books, the psalms, the gospels, the letters of the apostles. Pray to him, take time to bring your problems to him. Take also time to listen to him, to become silent, to wait for him to talk. It might take you time. There IS time during your day, whatever busy life you lead. Develop the habit of trust: repent . (Roland Potthast)
This is part of the trilogy project “Faith of a Scientist”.