Photo by tessy on Morgue File.
Tell us about something you’ve tried to quit. Did you go cold turkey, or for gradual change? Did it stick?
Sometimes it is good to quit things, at other times not. When I read the prompt, my mind first thought of addictions. Addictive habits can be, not only cumbersome, but life altering and affecting. I am sure we have all known alcoholics quitting drinking or chain smokers quitting smoking. Those with drug addictions seek help to quit drugs. Others, with obsessive personalities, seek professional help to quit some activity that is overtaking their lives: eating, shopping, hoarding or many others. Perhaps you have known of these first-hand.
I have, on an occasion or two, watched the TV show, My Strange Addiction. I am not sure if you are familiar with the show, nor do I remember on which channel it airs. I have seen individuals on the show who were addicted to eating all sorts of odd things; like, couch cushions, glass, cigarette ashes, chalk, and one woman ate the ashes of her deceased husband! Others are addicted to looking like a life-size Barbie doll or getting all sorts of strange injections. I am no psychological professional, but I think it pretty much goes without saying these people have disturbing addictions that are fed by underlying issues.
But, that really is how it works for all of us I think. The addiction is often merely a symptom of some deeper, spiritual, emotional or mental issue. The addiction, like a cough or running nose to a cold, is the indicator that something is wrong.
While we, (you know the more or less normal ones, or at least we think that about ourselves), may not eat people’s ashes or glass or the like; we all have addictions or habits or whatever. Now, again, not all are bad; some are healthy and productive. Of course, even good things, if taken to extremes, can be harmful. Someone who is obsessed with body image and practices extreme dieting or workout regiments, where they make themselves nothing but skin and bones; obviously has taken the idea of a healthy lifestyle beyond the bounds.
Perhaps, it is a habit we need to cultivate that is our greatest need. It is not so much about quitting something, as it is beginning something. Often times, though, to start something we may have to give up something else. For instance, if I feel the need, (or have been advised by a physician), to start a morning walking regiment; then, I may have to give up unhealthy lifestyle habits that keep me up to wee hours in the morning or the like.
As a Christian, there are many bad habits, better known as sin (yes, I know this is not a popular word in today’s world, but the truth is still the truth), that we must quit. The apostle Paul speaks of mortifying (putting to death) the works of the flesh (Rom. 8.13). No, Paul is not advocating self-mutilation or doing harm to one’s self in a physical manner; rather, he is speaking to a greater reality, that of the spirit. He is saying there are things we humans have become accustomed to doing. These things are not healthy for us spiritually, they are displeasing to our Heavenly Father; that is, God calls them sin.
In Colossians 3, Paul, having declared believers to be raised to newness of life in Christ, names certain sins we should quit: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness . . . anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk and lying. (Col. 3.6-9)
Not only that, not only does Paul say we should quit certain spiritually unhealthy things in our lives, but he says we should replace those with good and wholesome spiritual habits and qualities. There is wisdom here. The way of holiness and following Christ is a two-part process; not only are we to give up certain things, but we are to incorporate certain behaviors into our lives. If we only remove, then we will be like the house the demon left, only to come back stronger and with friends (Mt. 12.43-45)!
The point being, when we remove some unhealthy spiritual habit, we must replace it with a healthy one. So, if I remove the habit of lying, I must replace it in my life with God’s truth. It is the prophetical approach of tearing down and building up, uprooting and replanting, removing and replacing.
In fact, in the Colossians three pericope, Paul shows us this pattern. After enumerating unhealthy spiritual lifestyle habits, he goes on to name healthy ones: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing one another, forgiveness, love, peace, thankfulness and God’s word. These stand in stark contrast to the unhealthy habits of the soul Paul mentioned earlier. It is the difference, as Paul argues elsewhere, to live according the Spirit and not the flesh (that is, the sinful nature that resides within us all) (Gal. 5.16ff).
Habits of this kind are difficult to break, but not impossible. For the Christ follower, the Holy Spirit gives us power and grace to do what we are commanded in his word to do. The way of discipleship is a way of sacrifice and putting to death the desires and works of our sinful natures. But, it is also the way of glory and the way of the abundant life of Christ.
The old adage, winners never quit and quitters never win is not always true: in fact, in many cases, it is patently false!