IVP - Strangely Dim - Bothering Habits

April 11, 2011

Bothering Habits

All this talk about rabbits--as well as numerous signs all over these western Chicago suburbs about where and when the Easter Bunny will be appearing (it appears he has a very full schedule in the next couple weeks)--has me thinking about the first poem I remember writing. I was in second grade, and in my best cursive, with all the creative force I could muster, I wrote a touching (at least, my mom thought so) account of a particular rabbit and her habit. (Lest you get the wrong picture in your mind and then later feel disappointed, my poem was not the tale of a Catholic hare garbed in black and white, like Maria in The Sound of Music, though that, no doubt, would have been a much more interesting poem than the one I actually wrote.) Budding wordsmith that I was, I'm pretty sure the poem started very originally with "There once was a rabbit that had a habit." And I'm pretty sure the next two lines went something like this:

The habit bothered the rabbit,

And the rabbit bothered the habit.

Unfortunately, I don't remember the rest of the poem (though I'm sure it was scintillating), so I'll have to leave you in suspense about what actually happened to the rabbit and its habit. But those few lines are enough to make me think that, even if my poetry skills were lacking a certain something, my theology may have been relatively advanced. Because, after all these years of thinking that the only two lines I remember don't even really make sense (though the rhyme scheme has a nice ring to it, you have to admit), it's struck me lately that they encapsulate Lent pretty well.

In Lent, we often name a habit that's bothering us by keeping us from God in some way. The habit might be a characteristic like our tendency toward anger or bitterness, or a propensity to lie. Or maybe it's an addiction: to food, exercise, television or affirmation from others, for example--things that can be good and healthy (and necessary) in moderation but that easily become idols, habits that hold a higher place in our lives than God.

Once we name the habit, Lent offers a built-in period of time during which we can intentionally engage in disciplines that "bother" that habit (though we can, and hopefully do, do this at other times of the year too). Essentially, Lent stirs things up; the disciplines we engage in upset the evil one's plans, and parry attacks from the likes of Wormwood in The Screwtape Letters. Moreover, facing, naming, mourning our bothersome, sinful habits as we ponder Christ's suffering can allow us to receive and experience his forgiveness and freedom. The writer of Hebrews offers us encouragement toward this end:

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:1-3)

This is the hope of Lent that moves us forward toward Easter--the hope of his continued work in us that helps us persevere when we're tempted to believe that freedom from a particular sin [read: hindering habit] is impossible.

In second-grade-rabbit-poetry terms, I imagine the exhortation would sound something like this:

So the rabbit hatched a plan

To gain the upper hand [or foot, as the case may be].

Looking daily to her Maker,

She'd freely be a taker

Of his mercy and his love,

Flowing from his throne above.

From his suffering for her sin

She would find the strength to win,

Hopping on from this one habit

As a quicker, freer rabbit.

Posted by Lisa Rieck at April 11, 2011 10:40 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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