In 1889, Scotsman Samuel Smiles, a prolific writer and insightful author penned this penetrating quote in his classic book on the home entitled: “Happy Homes and the Hearts That Make Them.”
“Sow a thought and you get an act; Sow an act and you get a habit; Sow a habit and you get a character; Sow a character and you get a destiny.”
Smiles aptly described the very nature and fabric of life, but to those of us who find ourselves chained to destructive habits, his words sound more like a death sentence and a call to hope. In our efforts to inspire higher living we often under estimate the grip and power of sin—especially sin that worms its way into the very fabric of our lives.
I suspect all of us have had habits in our lives that haunt and at times nauseate us. One of my favorite Seminary professors was the old Scotsman Jack MacGorman. Often I would sit in his classes mesmerized by his mastery of the Greek language. Without doubt he forgot more about Greek than I ever learned.
One day in class MacGorman confessed in class that in some circles he was affectionately known as “Cutter Jack” because of his sharp wit, and his even sharper tongue. On occasion this doubled edge sword between his lips could slice and dice one of my fellow students who naively tried to correct our old professor. Let’s just say that only usually happened once a semester!
In an effort to stop this bad habit, MacGorman had taken to drastic measures. He confessed in his coat pocket he often carried an old wooden clothes’ pen used back in the day to hang wet laundry out on the clothes’ line to dry in the breeze. In private after having made a cutting remark in public, he would attach the clothes’ pen to his tongue in a painful effort to instill discipline into his selection of words.
At our house, we taught our little girls to tame their tongues by scrapping an Ivory soap bar on their front teeth to cleanse their “dirty little mouths” and to teach them to be more careful in their choice of words. I must confess the bitter taste of soap in the mouth can help you with your vocabulary. You might try it sometime.
However, the harsh reality is our words, actions, and bad habits are often symptoms rather than the root causes of our stumbling and falling. In recovery communities, addicts are warned of the little fires that often flame up their self destructive habits. The acrostic “HALTS” reminds the recovering addict to watch out when they are “hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or feel stupid.” Often these toxic emotions stir the heart and mind into self destructive cycles.
The Apostle Paul knew all too well our struggle with the “flesh” or our “sinful nature.” He confessed: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:19-20 NIV)
Finally in exasperation Paul exclaimed: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24 KJV)
We know all too well this darkness, but let the light of grace and hope shine. Paul concluded: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25 NIV)
Don’t miss the point, our hope rests not in our self discipline but rather in our personal growing relationship with Jesus Christ our LORD fueled by faith. Yes, Jesus alone can set us free to be all we were meant to be. He stands alone as our “higher power” sent to rescue us from ourselves. Exchange your struggle for a Savior!