I Want to Change, But How?
Overcoming Bad Habits or Character Traits.
My Bad Habit / Trait
We all struggle with bad habits or even character traits that we want to change. Some are more detrimental than others. I personally struggled with an anger issue. I tried to control situations and people with my anger and it was hurting my marriage and my children.
The battle to overcome this trait was long and exhausting. I begged God to take it away. I went to counseling. I read self-help books. And while all of that did help me grow and understand myself better, it did not bring the deep, lasting change I so craved. I was frustrated to say the least. I was especially frustrated with God.
Why didn’t He take it away?
From childhood, I knew that Bible study and prayer were important for the Christian life. But I found it hard to do it consistently, partly because my focus was wrong (see my last blog), and partly because I didn’t see the benefits.
Whatever the cause, my devotional life was far from consistent for the majority of my life. I would get inspired and be faithful for a week or two and then start missing a day here, a week there, a month now and then. On again, off again. Up and down.
This resulted in not experiencing a living, growing relationship with God. My religious experience was more of a lifestyle choice than anything else. (For more on this, read my bio here.)
A Growing Realization
However, during this time, after I had changed the focus of my Bible study and prayer, I gradually started noticing that on the days I spent time reading my Bible and praying, I was a more patient mother, a more loving wife.
I even became aware of times that I would respond to my boys or my husband with words that I knew God had put in my mouth, because it was not my nature.
But I was still very inconsistent with my devotional time. After all, I was a very busy pastor’s wife and mother. How could I possibly find the time to do it consistently?
Or so I reasoned.
Making the Connection
Until one morning, the connection between my devotional time and my behavior became crystal clear.
It was a school morning and for some reason, I got up on the wrong side of the bed. I was not happy. And you know the saying, “When mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy.”
I spent the morning chewing everyone out who came within my range. Finally, breakfast was over, lunches packed, and my husband and the boys were headed out the door to school.
I was following them to the door still chewing them out; I don’t even remember for what anymore. The boys escaped, with relief, I am sure, into the garage to get into the car and my husband stopped with his hand on the door and turned and looked at me.
He then asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks.
“What happened to you?”
And he turned and walked out the door. There I stood with my mouth open and my accusing finger still pointing at the door when the Holy Spirit whispered,
“It’s been three weeks since you have spent time reading your Bible and praying.”
I was convicted on the spot. Suddenly the connection between my devotional life and my behavior, that I had only been dimly aware of before, snapped into focus.
That was the day I decided that no matter what, I would spend time DAILY reading my Bible and praying.
My consistency was born out of necessity. I desperately wanted to eradicate my anger problem. At the time, I didn’t even understand why my devotional time made a difference. I just knew it did. And if that is what it took, I was going to do it.
Recently, as I was planning to write this blog, a story I read years ago came to my mind. I tried to find it, but to no avail. So, I cannot quote the source, but here is what I remember.
An older woman was frustrated that though she spent time reading and studying her Bible, she could not remember what she read when she got up from her devotional time.
One night she had a dream that she was standing by the River of Life and she wanted to scoop up the water to take it back with her. But all she had to carry it with was a dirty old basket.
She scooped up the sparkling water only to have it run out between the weave of her basket before she took more than 10 steps. She dipped and dipped her basket trying to carry the water away, but to no avail.
In her desperation, she began weeping over her inability to take the water back with her. Suddenly an angel appeared by her side and simply told her to look at her basket.
Her basket was no longer old and dirty. It was clean, looked new and beautiful.
It dawned on me that this was the perfect illustration of how Bible study and prayer, with the right focus, has been working to change my character.
What the Bible Says
Paul said it like this:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NKJV
By dipping my basket into the Word every day, by seeking to know God intimately through prayer and Bible study, the Word of God cleanses my character, my life, my habits. He transforms me into His image, little by little.
Paul said it this way in 2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. NKJV
It wasn’t magic. It didn’t happen overnight.
But He is definitely transforming me a little more each day as dip my basket in His Word and prayer
Next Time: I want to pray, but I can’t concentrate!