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the lessons I keep on learning

Fork in the path in my neighbourhood
There is a basic principle that I (and a great deal of humanity, I suspect) have trouble remembering. And it is this: What I do today affects who I am tomorrow.  It seems rather obvious that the choices I make right now will set me on a certain trajectory for the future.  But somehow, the present moment tricks us into thinking that it exists in isolation from everything else.  We believe that just this once, we will be able to escape proven consequences, or on the other side of things, that this is going to be the time when I will reap rewards way beyond the effort I put in. We like to hope that we can have our cake and eat it too.  And all too often I hope that the bag of chips I ate at 10 pm won't make me feel like a bloated hippo the next day.  Not so.

I have been reading Isaiah, a book which is all about the decisions people make and how these lead them either to destruction or toward God's goodness. Some of the pronouncements of judgment are difficult to read, but they illustrate the lesson that is to be learned: keep on making bad decisions and you will end up in a downward spiral. Thankfully, there are a lot of hopeful promises in Isaiah as well, inviting the readers/hearers to make good decisions, to turn toward the graciousness of God, and to walk in humility, quick to recalibrate when they mess up.  

Here is a list of some lessons that I have learned but often fail to remember in the moment:

1. Going to bed late makes it harder to get up the next morning. It also makes me less productive, not as sharp, and more likely to forget something I was supposed to do that day. This is a hard lesson for a night owl like me.
2. When I watch stupid television right before I go to bed (I happened to watch part of a rather senseless romantic comedy this past week, hoping that it would move on from the swearing and rude sexual references to the point of tension between the main characters, but it never did) those unpleasant images and ideas will be in my dreams and stick with me for most of the next day. I hate that.
3. When I need a small break from my work, I will always feel better after gazing out the window or going for a walk instead of spending that same time watching television or surfing the net.
4. When I check my phone first thing in the morning instead of taking some time for silence and prayer, the day is more frenzied and less peaceful.
5. When I drink an iced coffee, I will get a spurt of energy and then be jittery for a few days. Not worth it!
6. When I say something unkind to a person, I will be thrown into a day or two of turmoil and personal anguish.
7. Starting a project early and spreading it out over a few weeks or days will produce better results than doing it all the day before it is due.
8. Proofread everything at least twice before hitting "send."
9. Don't post anything on the net that you wouldn't want your mother, your boss, or your students to read. Don't say anything about someone that you wouldn't say to their face. When in doubt about a judgment call, ask a trusted friend.
10. Freaking out does not make things go better or faster.

Perhaps you have a few of your own lessons which you keep on having to learn. Whatever the challenges may be, may we become more consistent at making good decisions today so that we can be the people we want to be tomorrow.


Anonymous said…
"Sow an action and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny." -William James

The habits we sow affect our character. But this has little or nothing to do with God's goodness. We have little knowledge of what His goodness is. Your productivity and sharpness, your feelings of peace, these are things you value (and rightly so). But are these God's values? I don't think we can know that. We are really good at fooling ourselves into thinking we know what God wants.

One of the problems of life is when one looks back on one's good choices, one's upwards spiral, one's destiny, and realizes that it too is sham and that human conceptions of goodness are quite limited.

As you put it, habits are important so that we can be the people WE want to be, not the people God wants us to be.

Thankfully our God is more than the god of self-realization and is perfectly capable of dealing with both our "good" and "bad" choices. This is the freedom we have in Christ.

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