I was an eyewitness to my mother and step-father’s dating life. When one of my aunts was unavailable to babysit, I went on dates with them. That’s when I noticed my future step-father’s strange habits. He always opened the door for my mother. None of the other men she dated after my father’s death did that. Being seven years old and curious, I asked why he did that. “Because you always open the door for a lady,” I was told. My young brain could put this much together: my mother was a lady and she deserved to have the door opened for her.
When they got married, I remember Pop (as I now called him) opened the door for her as they got ready to leave on their honeymoon. He didn’t quit. He opened the door for her for the next 43 years.
I asked him once, “How do you remember to open the door for Mama every time?” He looked surprised, and said, “I don’t have to remember; I want to remember.”
Pop didn’t open the door for Mama because he had to. He didn’t do it out of fear or hope for a reward. He opened the door because he loved her and wanted her to know it.
When we talk about spiritual disciplines, we often make it sound like something you have to do: you have to read your Bible, pray, give, and fast. Because we frame it as a “have to” we feel great guilt when we forget. Most of us are still rebellious enough that we balk at doing a spiritual discipline because someone told we should do it.
What if we are looking at this all wrong? What if spiritual disciplines were not a “have to” but instead rose out of a “want to?”
No one has to persuade me to learn about people I love. No one has to persuade me to talk to people I love. No one has to persuade me to give to people I love. No one has to persuade me to say “no” to myself so I can say “yes” to someone I love.
With everyone I love, I’ve formed habits of the heart. These habits, some as simple as opening the door, cause me to live outside myself. I’m happier that way, because that’s the way God made all of us to be.
What would happen if I responded to God not out of guilt, but out of love? What habits of the heart would form in my relationship with Him?