I came home for a summer internship between my junior and senior of college. The last semester had taken a toll on me. Late night trips to Applebee’s for half price appetizers mixed with not exercising added far more than the freshman fifteen. Coming home to Binghamton provided a fresh start.

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The internship took place at the church I grew up attending. A new executive pastor took me under his wing. One of the first questions he asked me was, “Would you like to meet me at the gym at 6:15 am?” Despite my desire to sleep a few extra minutes, I answered “yes.”

Weeks later, I noticed a substantial amount of changes. The exercise in the morning had caused me to watch what I ate. Because I spent time with this pastor working out, he provided me with helpful feedback and wisdom. Not only did I lose weight, but I started listening to others more attentively, engaging scripture more meaningfully, and sensed the Holy Spirit nudging other areas of my life.

Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit would label this a “Keystone Habit.” He describes this kind of habit as, “The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge, and remake other patterns.”

Where does grace intersect with habits? Experiencing the Gospel does not negate our effort. Rather the grace of Jesus motivates and empowers to experience change, especially in our habits. N.T. Wright in After You Believe discusses how habits relate to grace, maturity, and growth when we follow Jesus:

There is a sequence: grace, which meets us where we are but it is not content to let us remain where we are, followed by direction and guidance to enable us to acquire the right habits to replace the wrong ones (pg. 63)

When I look back at that summer internship, I point back to one habit of exercising. It catalyzed a series of growth moments starting from the invitation from the pastor who oversaw me in my internship. God provided the right person and the right opportunity for me to grow. I experienced grace by responding to what the Holy Spirit brought in front of me.

Perhaps, God has not given us a list of habits to change. When we think of growing spiritually, He might call us to discover one habit of pursuing growth.

Perhaps, we have a sense of our “Keystone Habit” more than we like to admit. It seems to be the one area, that keeps repeating in our minds:
Exercising regularly.
Spending time in prayer.
Finding solitude and silence.
Shutting down our mobile devices for a few hours.
Engaging Scripture.
Implementing a chore routine.
Making a budget.
Joining or forming a small group.

Whatever the habit might be, God might call you to pursue a simple change that could transform other areas of your life. Experiencing grace might mean looking for the opportunities for growth God has placed right in front of you.

What “Keystone Habit” might God call you to pursue?

Photo credit by Skitter Photo.