Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Habitual Grace

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
1st Corinthians 12:9

Recently, one of my mentors gave me some wise advice. 

"It takes 21 days to make a new habit," she told me, "and three to break it."

She went on to explain that if you put a good habit into place, and you miss it one day, you can still go back to it. If you miss a second day, you have to get back to it, because if you miss a third, you've pretty much destroyed it. 

At first, her ascertain depressed me a little. In one seventh of the time it takes to create a good change, it can be torn down. Three days just didn't seem fair.

But then I began to think through my own habit development. Usually, if I'm in the process of trying to change the way I operate, I feel trapped into it. Missing even one day can make me feel like a failure, as if all my hard work has been in vain. If I miss it for a second day, I feel pretty much done, and almost always give up. Three days means that I have actually gained time. I have more room to mess up before I have to scrap everything and start over.

In life, we don't get too many do-overs. On a personal level, I often feel like everything has to be perfect the first time. I work and over-work to make sure that there is no chance of not achieving the goal. In college, if the question asked for me to list five of something, I would put down seven just in case, and if I was sure of the answer, I would write out an explanatory sentence to make sure that I came through clearly.   When I ride the bus, I take the one before the one that would get me to work on time, so that if I miss it, or it breaks down, or a tree falls in the middle of the road, I won't be late. This has been my style for as long as I can remember.

But to have a few days to get back on track if I mess up... it's a brand new concept. And I'm falling in love with it a little bit. It's an unexpected grace period, and I'm happy to have it to fall back on it.

Grace is a funny concept, because it's unexpected. It's as if all of a sudden, there is an undeserved break, a little bit of luck that gets us through. But grace is better than luck, because it's not random. It's a gift, bestowed upon you by a person, or a concept, or whatever it is that holds the control. 

Interestingly, it took only three days for the original Jewish sacrificial system to fall apart after Yeshua's death. The temple was gone- old habits needed to change. And then, his reappearance created a new habit that hasn't taken a break in over 2000 years. 

Now that's grace.

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