Don’t let your walk with Christ become merely a habit

By KEN LETSON / Guest Columnist

In his book, “God Is Closer Than You Think,” John Ortberg writes of what psychologists call “habituation.” 

As the word itself suggests, we humans are creatures of habit who are easily swayed into settling into the habit of our status quo.

Behind the specific psychological phenomenon of “habituation” is the idea that when a new object or stimulus is introduced into our environment, we are intensely aware of it, but over time, our awareness fades. 

The stimulus that so easily got our attention to begin with fades into the background of our habits.

When we moved into our home many years ago, I was constantly awakened by the sound of a train’s horn just through the woods from our house. The trains are still there, many times a day, but I never even realize they’re there any more. I just got used to it.

As Ortberg writes, one of the greatest challenges for us as believers is fighting what we might call “spiritual habituation.” We simply drift into acceptance of life in spiritual maintenance mode. It’s a kind of spiritual attention deficit disorder (what I like to call S.A.D.D.) that stops noticing the details of our walk with God. We simply quit paying attention.

The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:15 that we are to “be very careful how you live–not as unwise, but as wise.” That suggests that we are to be aware, to pay close attention to how we live, to not allow ourselves to get into such a routine that loses its heart in the habits of life. We are to live intentionally.

“I hold this against you,” Jesus said to the church at Ephesus. “You have left your first love.” 

They didn’t mean to; they were as religiously busy as ever, as Revelation 2 tells us. But they were going through the motions in a habituated form of Christianity. I know how that feels, as I suspect you may as well, and I don’t want to live like that.

As we face a new year, let us not fall to the subtle temptation to habituate our walk of faith, but instead may we truly pour our hearts into a living and vibrant relationship with the God who infinitely loves us.

The Rev. Ken Letson is pastor of The Church at Shelby Crossings. You can reach him at kenletson@shelbycrossings.com.