Last night as I enjoyed my nightly herbal tea, sitting in my warm bed covered with three blankets, I realized this had become a habit. This sitting, cozied up, drinking tea while reading each night. It wasn’t always a habit for me. I used to struggle to make the coffee, get the kid ready for bed, throw on pajamas, and collapse in bed and play on the phone for two hours before I felt my brain had slowed enough to turn off the lights. I never considered that my lack of routine and lack of true rest contributed to my insomnia either.
Then I read an article by Arianna Huffington about her nightly routine. It seemed fairy-tale like, with soft violin music humming in my head while I read it. It also felt impossible to achieve for real, middle class, average moms like me. And it even irritated me a little bit. How could anyone expect the mom of a toddler to establish her own nightly routine which involved anything remotely resembling self-care? Ridiculous.
But that’s what kickstarted my desire to create a better bedtime experience for myself. Over time, through taking the same steps over and over again, I tried. I tried until new actions no longer felt new. Until the cozy feeling became so enjoyable that I stopped thinking about the work involved to make tea, to wrap up chores and tasks, to take my medication before jumping into bed. After performing the action repeatedly for several weeks, I didn’t even have to think about it anymore. It became part of my routine and part of who I am.
This got me thinking about many other routines I’ve established, behaviors I’ve rutted into patterns, and ways I’ve chosen to change my life over time.
I used to hate drinking water and probably only consumed eight to 16 ounces daily. I mostly drank coffee. Today I drink at least my daily recommended amount of water. I still drink coffee, but I probably drink half as much as I did five years ago.
I competed in gymnastics as a child and participated in sports in high school, but athletics lost its luster for me after that. I went through phases of getting fit, but nothing ever stuck. Now, I exercise every single day. I rarely skip because it took me so long to establish this habit, and quite frankly, I don’t enjoy exercising for the sake of doing it. I’ve learned that hiking works for me because I’m more focused on nature and communing with God than I am concerned with how my muscles ache while climbing a hill or how sweaty my forehead feels.
These are just two examples of decisions I’ve made and ways I’ve changed my patterns of behavior. In deeper, more spiritual ways, I have drastically changed over the last decade. While I was reflecting on these changes, I asked myself what exactly had motivated me to change. What had inspired me? What had kicked me in the pants hard enough that I felt moving forward was the best option?
In many cases, it was you.
All of you in my life who drink enough water. Those who exercise and even seem to enjoy it. Those who wake up early and make the most of the day. Those who eat a nutritious diet. Those who read the Bible every day and seem to grow as a result. Those who set firm boundaries in relationships. Those who love others well. Those who take care of themselves because they understand they are children of God and worthy of self-care.
How did you motivate me and inspire me?
Sometimes it was by setting an example and modeling good choices, proper boundaries, great time management, etc.
But other times, you motivated me by spurring me on to good deeds. You told me I needed to change. You made suggestions while modeling great behavior. You kicked me in the pants!
This reminds me of Hebrews 10:24. “And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds.”
You spurred me.
In Greek, “spur” is paroxysmon, which means stimulation, provocation, irritation, angry dispute. From paroxuno; incitement, or dispute (Biblehub).
That doesn’t sound very encouraging, inspirational, or motivational, does it? Who likes being provoked and irritated? No one. But I think the writer of Hebrews understood that for many of us, simply watching others do life well and love God well isn’t enough. We need to be provoked to do better. We need other Christians to irritate us. As we say in recovery, “the truth will set you free, but first it will make you mad.” And the same is true with spurring one another on to good deeds. At first, we may feel irritated and provoked. We may walk away angry or with hurt feelings.
Don’t stay there.
Let the Holy Spirit use the spurs of others to incite you, to light fires beneath you which motivate you to move out of what’s familiar, comfortable, stagnant, and unhealthy. If you let God, He will always keep you growing closer to Him, helping you become more of who He intends you to be.
The spurs are just part of His plan.
The next time someone kicks you in the pants, lights a fire under you, or provokes you by telling you the truth, thank God. He loves you enough to refuse to let you remain stuck.
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