How slow habit-building has deepened my faith

Written by Natalie Lantz

I find it inspiring when people maintain habits on a daily basis. Like actually getting out of bed on time and eating more than a granola bar in the morning before rushing off to their early morning classes. I, on the other hand, continually fail at keeping habits longer than a few days.

I’ll wake up on an otherwise particularly mundane Monday morning and decide I’m going to train for a 10-kilometre run. (Despite the fact it’s been months since I laced up my running shoes.) When I get back from my run, I plan to make a big, healthy breakfast, complete all my class readings for the week, and spend an hour with the Lord. All before 8 a.m.

No wonder I fail. I keep hitting snooze, and it’s long after 8:00 when my feet hit the ground. I stay up late studying and hanging out with friends. It’s not that I’m against mornings.

I think mornings are sacred and should be treated as such. I’d even classify myself as a morning person. The problem is, my expectations are too big. I can’t add all these habits at once. But I think I can, and should.

I recently started a new approach: habit building. This is where you spend time working and developing one habit until you have it down pat. Then, you’re ready to start the next one. You don’t abandon the first habit that you have worked so hard to do consistently. Instead, you build the second onto that first habit. From there, you can add a third, and so forth.

The first habit I’ve been working on has been centred on my relationship with the Lord. I used to have a random and inconsistent way of spending time with the Lord. This meant I wasn’t allowing myself to be filled up daily in the way I needed to be.

I struggled to keep up with reading devotionals that were to be read on certain dates. I picked up journaling in the past but have since dropped that habit, and my time spent in the Scriptures left something to be desired.

So, I decided to try something new. I started reading Travelling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Ann Lamott while I sipped my coffee in the quiet of the early morning. The book was about her faith journey and where she found the Lord. Reading it slowly started to transform my mornings. I didn’t put a time limit on how long I spent with my nose tucked in the book.

Because this rhythm had no pressure attached, it began expanding naturally. I started picking up my journal afterward to jot down ideas and prayers. This morphed into a couple of pages of full-on journaling. From there, I prayed about my day and dug into the Psalms.

My new morning routine is a smaller step compared to my old set of lofty goals. But this rhythm has transformed the start to my days. And it’s the start of many habits I hope to build on in the coming months and years.

When I started aiming for a less crammed schedule and prioritized intentional time with the Lord, I began to see Him in ways I had missed before. I’m able to see how the Lord is in the littlest of things because I’m taking the time to hear His voice and see His character through Scripture.

As much as I wanted to jump in with both feet, I’ve learned that building my relationship with the Lord is best done slowly and steadily. You can’t rush it. I’ve jumped with both feet into His love for me, but I’ve had to slow down my busyness and regularly set aside time to savour with Him. I’m learning how to cultivate unrushed time with Him, and I hope I can build on that.