Conscious for a Change
Have you ever given much thought to the habits in your life? Moreover, have you thought about the development and formation of habits? We all have them, both good and bad. Our habits are patterns of behavior that are second-nature to us which develop over a period of time. Very often we are unconscious of our habits, and sometimes when they are bad we choose to minimize the severity of the habit or just ignore it altogether. It is far easier to pretend it’s not there and appease our conscience than to do the painful task of confronting it with the force of unrelenting honesty. One of the things I hate doing the most is listening to myself preach or speak. Not only do I sound goofy (God did not bless me with a deified tenor voice), but I find myself saying the same words more times than I care to admit. I would put the CD of my latest message in the car and grimace as I listen to myself in order to become a better communicator. When I would go through this process, I exposed myself to things I said that I had no idea that I was saying! Yet I think we would agree that such is the case for most of us in our conversations. How many times do we hear the words “like” from a teenage girl or “you know” from a teenage guy (they are not the only ones who say it)? Even worse, how about “um” and “uh?” Or, how about when someone prays, how many times do you hear “Lord” and “Father” almost in some sort of syncopated rhythm? The fact is, we say these things in an almost unconscious manner. They have become habits for us, and we often don’t realize them until we are forced to become conscious of the very thing we have, over a period of time, become totally unconscious. A couple of weeks ago, I was reading Jay Adams’ book, A Theology for Christian Counseling: More Than Redemption, and came across a very helpful paragraph concerning Christian sanctification. In this paragraph, Adams shows us that we need to be conscious for a change—a consciousness of our sinful patterns and behavior that need to be addressed if we are going to pursue holiness and practice godliness. In the context of Christian counseling, Adams made these remarks (emphasis mine):
Since God has made counselees with the capacity for living according to habit, counselors must reckon with habit when seeking to help counselees change. They must help them consciously to take a hard look at their life styles. They must help them to become conscious of life patterns by carefully examining their unconscious responses. Their unconsciousness must again become conscious. As they become aware of life patterns, they must evaluate them by the Word of God. What the counselee learned to do as a child he may be continuing to do as an adult. Pattern by pattern the counselor must help him to analyze and determine whether it has developed from practice in doing God’s will or whether it has developed as a sinful response. There is only one way to become a godly person, to orient one’s life toward godliness, and that means pattern by pattern. The old sinful ways, as they are discovered, must be replaced by new patterns from God’s Word. That is the meaning of disciplined living. Discipline first requires self-examination, then it means crucifixion of the old ways (saying “no” daily), and lastly, it entails practice in following Jesus Christ in new ways by the guidance and strength that the Holy Spirit provides through His Word. The biblical way to godliness is not easy or simple, but it is the solid way (243).Not only can we become unconscious of sinful habits, we are often blind to them; therefore, we need faithful Christian friends who will help us see the sinful tendencies, attitudes, and behavior that need to be confronted. In the postmodern day in which we live, the new tolerance influences Christians to think we should tolerate sin in each others’ lives. After all, who’s to judge? Yet, the biblical call to community, accountability, and stewardship of each one’s soul demands that we recover such biblical commands to rebuke, admonish, and warn one another in love—and we must learn to do this with ourselves. With our postmodern view of tolerance married to the psychological sensitivities and view of political correctness, we need to take a long look into the mirror of God’s Word and open our eyes to the things in our lives of which we have been blinded. We need to stick that CD of ourselves into the player and become conscious of what goes under the radar of our own perceived reality. If we as Christians will take seriously our call for personal holiness and exhort one another to do the same, I believe we will find ourselves a counter-cultural community of change-agents where the locus of such transformation begins with our own hearts . . . and that, my friend, is what we need, for a change.