Habits- whether good or bad- are hard to break.

My office is located on the grounds of the Simpsonwood Conference andRetreatCenterin Peachtree Corners (formerly Norcross),Georgia. The road from my office to the street is about a quarter of a mile and has had several places where the road surface has sunken. When I approach those areas I instinctively move to the opposite side of the road to avoid the dip. I have done it many times over the past eleven years.

Recently the low spots in the road were corrected. The road is now smooth after it was filled in and repaved. However, my driving pattern has not been altered. Although there is no need to swerve to miss the low spot in the road which is no longer there, I find myself following the pattern that has been learned from many trips down that short stretch of road. When I approach the places in the road where there used be a dip, I move to the other side without even thinking.

I am working to change my old habit but it takes intentional efforts to reprogram my mind. I have to consciously tell myself, “The road has been repaired. Stay straight ahead.”

Habits- whether good or bad- are hard to break.

When I was child the bath towels we used at home were not thick and plush like you might have at a nice hotel. They were of “economical quality.” In other words, thin. And because we were thrifty (poor) we used them as long as they had even the slightest drying effect. As a result, after showering I would use my hands to wipe excess water from my body. That way the towel could effectively complete the task.

I still practice the habit of daily showers or baths but the towels at my house today are much thicker than the ones I used as a boy. Nonetheless the drying habit developed decades ago still lingers with me.

Habits- whether good or bad- are hard to break.

My oldest son began smoking cigarettes when he was a college student. Because he has asthma his doctor advised him to quit smoking (good advice for anyone). Jason stopped smoking but the nicotine desire has not gone away. He kicked the habit and has not taken it up again but he told me that, after more than twenty years, sometimes when he smells a cigarette he still wants one.

Habits- whether good or bad- are hard to break.

My grandchildren, ages six and nine and a half, live in Tokyo(I have pictures if you are interested). They are growing up in a very urban environment. Their apartment is just one block from a very busy street and they walk or ride their bicycles everywhere. They have learned to obey traffic signals and pedestrian crosswalks. When they visit us they remind us of the dangers of our more casual attitude of crossing the street on foot. If the traffic signal indicates that one should not cross, they insist that you wait even if there is no traffic in sight.

Habits-whether good or bad- are learned and they are hard to break.

Practice does not make perfect but repetition over time creates pathways in the brain that can become second nature. Just as it is for your golf swing or swimming backstroke, practice is the key to spiritual disciplines. Reading the Bible. Prayer. Generosity. Worship. Principled living. All of these are habits that can be cultivated and like all habits-whether good or bad- once they are learned they are hard to break.

Jamie Jenkins