Clarity:We Are What We Repeatedly Do

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”– Will Durant

At 62 years old, my father is suffering from increasingly advanced dementia. In October of 2016, I had the good fortune of spending 11 days with him, and while the disease was evident, he was perfectly lucid. In fact, I’d call it the best time I’ve ever spent with him.

Now, a handful of months later, he faces constant hallucinations and forgets the names of people he has known for decades. He reverts to our childhoods, at times, when discussing me and my siblings.
It’s a sad reality to accept that this is now the norm and is only going to get worse. How much worse can it be when we, who are healthy of mind and body, forget the good things which we have practiced for so long that they ought to be a habit?

Spouses confess their love a thousand times each day, yet fear, jealousy and mistrust can creep into our hearts and minds in an instant. Our kids respond best to constructive critique and loving nudges, yet if we have a bad day, we shout them down into guilt and humiliation. Neighbors and friends are there at the drop of a hat in our moments of crisis, yet we grumble and grouch when we receive that call of need from someone.

So sad and lamentable is the forgetfulness of man! We pray and we work and we pray some more and we work some more, to overcome strongholds in our lives — sins we hide from the world, addictions, deceit — and in a heartbeat, we revert to our broken ways. We have been carried through countless trials, and yet with each new one that befalls us, we lament or woe and curse the heavens.
Adam and Eve walked with God, Himself, yet they forgot the only rule he gave them, and invited sin into the past, present and future of the world.

So wonderful, then is the knowledge that we have a God who remembers us, yet forgets our sins! He separates us from our sins, “as far as the east is from the west,” and keeps no record of the sins of a penitent heart. He washes us clean.

Why, then, if we were created from toes up in His own image, do we revert away from our godly design to a decidedly ungodly disfigurement of His will for us? Because we are infected and afflicted with the disease of sin, and we live in a world that is saturated with it. The god of this world desires to kill, steal and destroy the Father’s precious creation, and will use any means available to do just that. He knows our flaws and will leverage them. Our habits are as flawed as we are and will fail us when it counts.

We combat this, not by focusing even more on repeating actions to build habits, but by making remembering a habit. We can’t simply wake up at the same time each morning to read His Word. Instead, we focus on remembering why we wake up early to read His Word. Attending church each Sunday cannot be the habit; remembering to worship Him, no matter what day it is, must be the habit. Just as we wouldn’t undertake physical workouts without developing and understanding the end goals, we can’t assume that ritualistic habits can form the basis of religion without the foundational and transforming faith that is the most basic requirement of Christianity.

The strength in any repetition — and, by extension, our ability to develop memory of it — is not the what; it is the why. Without the why, there is no strength in the foundation. And like a house built on a crumbling foundation, we will forget to remember. Before you know it, there will be no more time left for remembrance. Staying connected to the “why” of God’s unconditional love for each one of us can help us “remember” what matters most and fuel our desire to form godly habits. By the power of His Holy Spirit at work within us and the support of fellowship and community, we can overcome various aspects of the sinful nature bit by bit because the “why” of “He first loved us” is enough – He is enough.