Thursday, January 1, 2009
The Preacher’s Corner
We are the sum of our typos and Freudian slips
Misprints in the newspaper can be humorous, and I enjoy collecting them. I trust that as long as type is set by humans there will always be mistakes to make us smile. Recently I saw an obituary that told how the deceased had climbed the ladder of success “wrong by wrong.” Then there was a new diet that was declared “the triumph of mind over platter.” And sixty is when actions begin to “creak louder than words.” I surely made a Freudian slip when, looking for volunteers to help with our day camp for children from our church’s downtown Chicago neighborhood, I wrote, “Your Assistance is Needed for the Summer Day Problem!”
Well, this is the season for resolutions, and as anyone who reads this column regularly will know, I am no fan of gimmicks, schemes, careless promises, ploys, ruses, sleights, or stratagems. Most people “resolve” impossible things, such as to lose one-third of their body weight in six weeks or to read the Bible cover to cover by Easter. With regard to the latter, I suggest putting a marker where your effort gives out, and next time pick up there, rather than starting over with Genesis each January.
I am, in fact, suspicious of New Year resolutions. I think they just set people up to fail. Is this because we have some sort of “need” to disappoint ourselves?
Resolutions are an effort to form better habits. And, of course, habits are very powerful. The sad truth is that the formation of new, positive habits, once one has reached adulthood is very, very difficult. That’s the reason we work so hard to shape children’s behavior patterns while they are still malleable. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” may or may not be true for canines, but as far as I can tell, it applies absolutely to husbands.
The truth is that we are the sum of all our little choices. We say, “It won’t matter this time, but, of course, it always does. Shakespeare declared that “Use doth breed a habit in man,” and I gather that neglect has the opposite effect. Charles Reade, the English novelist and playwright, put it most powerfully: “Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
Good habits will sustain someone when body and spirit are weak. The lack of good habits, or the presence of bad ones, can overpower even the best of human intentions.
I am sure many people come to church by habit. Their car just heads in that direction on Sunday like the horse my grandfather had that would always go back to the barn if one loosened the hold on his reins. By the same token, how often would you make it to church if every Sunday you had to go through a long discussion of the advantages and disadvantages, the benefits and risks, the convenience or lack thereof, of worshiping on that particular day? So is a person’s commitment less because habit guides their practice? The truth is that God is in our habits.
Someone has said that life is what happens while we are waiting for something else. So we have to take charge of our living. Henry Adams explained it this way: Chaos often breeds life, but order breeds habit.”
Henry Adams said something else: He said, “A teacher affects eternity. You never know where a teacher’s influence ends.” That is a good thought to keep, for all of us, in certain ways, are teachers. The question is: What lessons do our lives convey?
(Editor’s Note: “Wow an act...” in this column, was corrected to read “Sow an act...” Typos are wonderful and Milton and Linda had a good laugh over this one!)
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