Exploring this particular habit is very close to my heart for a lot of reasons.
The first thing to address, though, is about the holy habits themselves. There are some things we develop and cultivate rather simply and easily. There are parallels between a number of natural habits and holy habits. For example it doesn’t take much for a baby to develop the habit of crying. It’s their first way of communicating with the strange world they find themselves in. Likewise it doesn’t take much for them to develop a habit of taking in the nutrients they need to survive. In fact it’s still amusing to reflect on the initial weeks and months of my children – eat, bathe, sleep, rinse and repeat with regular incursions of crying when any of those steps are not put out for them.
As we get older things change and we get sophisticated, but really we work to have the resources to eat, bathe and sleep and rinse and repeat. That operates best in the context of relationships. After all back as the baby, there was no way those needs could be met by ourselves. Then as we get older we realise that however much we ought to be pursuing ‘independence’, this whole living thing still depends on vibrant and fruitful relationships with others.
One of the things about holy habits that I love is how they are based on what we can connect to. Jesus expressed it brilliantly when He highlighted how grateful crowds of people were to get fed when they didn’t have food and He fed them supernaturally. They needed the food, He fed them. He then went onto challenge them to actually see that to really live they needed to eat something far more substantial than natural food. He offered Himself as the bread of life and encouraged those who truly wanted to live to believe in Him and experience life giving food that lasts forever.
Belief in Jesus is about opening up to who He is and allowing Him and His life to inform and shape all of life as you know it. Hugely helpful in that is that He is the Bread of Life that is also the Word of Life. Eating Him – trusting Him – believing in Him – is to feed off His Words. Even as He defeated the plans of the evil one by living off every word that proceeded from the Father, so He extends that capacity to overcome evil in the world by hearing Him as He speaks – eating His words by chewing and pondering over what He says and then as we digest it see how it empowers and enables us in itself to let us live the life God wants us to live.
There’s that fascinating episode in the earthly ministry of Jesus where He is transfigured and Elijah and Moses are with Him, but the voice from heaven points attention on Jesus and tells the disciples clearly and categorically to listen to what Jesus has to say. It doesn’t dismiss or degrade the importance of everything said in the Law and the Prophets. On the contrary it points to Jesus as the fulfillment of everything said and to hear Him is to hear everything God ever wanted to express – because Jesus is God expressed in the flesh. We hear Him, we take Him in, we as a result express Him in all of life.
So it is for us to make a habit of taking Him in through His word. It’s not different from the baby scenario. We get hungry, we cry out, we receive that which will sustain. The Living Word – the Bread of Life. This Word can be taken in by various means – but it is important that it is taken in – and by taken in I don’t mean study in the way we academically approach the term study. I mean enjoy the meal that is the word like you would enjoy a good meal – what was was it about it that made you think it was so delicious. So many textures and flavours in there – any worth mentioning. What about ingredients you didn’t pay attention to that were just as pivotal to creating that which was sweet to your lips and filling to your tummy whilst giving energy to every pore in your being. All this found in taking on the Word and making a habit of it.
As with all great eating habits, it is even better done in company. The experience can be so much richer when it becomes a regular part of life to engage in the Bread that is the Word with others who seek to be nourished by it and before you know it what was already an outstanding meal turns out to be a contender for meal of the century.
You might think this is slightly exaggerating, especially compared to some of the humdrum ways in which looking at the Word can take place. Especially when the Word is explored in a vacuum that seems to have no bearing to real life. We read what Jesus and what He did, we read about what others did thousands of years ago and we are happy for them or confused about what’s with all the blood in temples, or bored by the list of begats, or perplexed by people’s different understandings of what that prophet said and meant and what on earth was John on when he was writing the book of Revelation. Modern sensibilities are perturbed by the warfare and bloodshed splattered throughout parts of this Word.
But engaging in this Word was never meant to be a habit that was done purely by our own strength and based on the whims of the changing winds of what is culturally acceptable. There is divine assistance given to truly illuminate what is read when we read it. As we persist and learn to take joy in the pleasure of taking on the Word, so the Helper gives us that support we need so that over time understanding takes place and with it growth and with that greater gratitude for just how amazing the Word really is and how much life is the better for taking it in.
This is just the tip of the iceberg where appreciating the habit of the Word can be in the desire to be holy – set apart for the Master’s purposes and ready to do His will – a will found primarily in the Living Word.
I recommend the Word as a holy habit for you.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden