A scary thing happened to me last week after getting into my rental car. As I prepared to pull out of my parking spot, it occurred to me that this car didn’t have a rear camera display. So, I went ahead and shifted the car into reverse, then I listened for the car to tell me that it was all clear behind me. Not hearing anything, I began to lift my foot off the brake with an uneasy sense that something was not right. “Oh, that’s right,” I thought to myself, “this rental doesn’t have a proximity sensor.” Then as I backed out, it hit me (luckily not a car). I’d failed to use the rearview mirror. It’s an old instrument, useful for seeing what’s behind your vehicle. It seems that I’ve become so accustomed to using my rear camera display to drive in reverse that I no longer use my rearview mirror. It’s a habit I’ve become used to for over five years now. Over time, certain habits can cause us to miss essential things that are right in front us.
A recent study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology suggests that on average, it takes 66 days for a new habit to form. So in just over two months you can form great habits like quiet time, prayer, and fellowship. But if you are like me, you have a tendency to streamline these seemingly good habits, and then put them on autopilot. That’s when it becomes easy to miss what’s essential for doing those things in the first place–spending time with Jesus.
If a plane can be a metaphor for life, It’s like I’ve got Jesus piloting my plane, and he wants me up in the cockpit with him so he can speak with me, show me awesome things and even point out potential hazards that are coming. But, I’ve retreated to back of the plane to play flight attendant. I’ve found myself in that place recently. I’ll be meeting and welcoming new people in the name of Jesus at church or small group, and I’ll catch myself using canned greetings, a fake smile with a robotic nod to show I’m listening. Then I might even throw in a few inquisitive questions to feign interest. It’s not that I no longer care about people. It’s just become routine, and without a periodic heart-check and change-up in routine, I can put Jesus on autopilot and completely ignore Him.
That’s why periodically changing things up is good. My small group in our last meeting changed things up a bit. We spent an entire evening just pouring out our feelings and doing a status check on our group, rather than our usual group study and discussion. It was quite refreshing for everyone. A lot of needs and concerns came up that we might have missed had we stayed on autopilot.
I’m trying new things in my personal worship and prayer life too. Instead of just putting things on autopilot, I am trying to listen for God first and just sit in his presence instead of going out to mindlessly do stuff. Part of that also means that I don’t have to blog every morning, just because it’s become a part of my routine. It will be time better spent for myself and my readers–doing it out of inspiration rather than repetition.