How about your spiritual life? How many things do we do automatically? We have a tendency to condemn that sort of thing, acting without thinking, as if it is hypocrisy, but is that always the case?
I have always been in the same place every Sunday morning of my life, barring illness or injury. No, the physical location may not be the same, but anyone who knows me, knows that on Sunday mornings I am assembling with my brothers and sisters in the Lord at wherever I happen to be. There is never any question what I will do on Sunday if I am at all able.
I used to worry about falling asleep in the middle of my final prayer of the day. Surely, “pillow talk” is a close, intimate form of communication. In fact, it is one thing we miss in our marriage—you cannot whisper to a deaf man. So why should I be remorseful about falling asleep while having a comfortable, private moment with my Father? Yes, there are times for more formal, reverential prayers, but who else would I rather be speaking to in my last conscious moments of the day, and why should He be upset with me if I feel so comfortable and easy with Him? It’s not like it’s the only time we speak. It is, in fact, second nature for me to do so.
“Second nature” is defined as an acquired behavior or trait that is so long practiced as to seem natural or inborn. It comes from an old proverb, “Custom (or usage) is a second nature,” which was first recorded in 1390.
“First” nature, then, would be things we do instinctively, that are inborn. When we are born again into the kingdom of God, it becomes our responsibility to change our behavior, practicing it so frequently, that it eventually becomes our “second” nature, something we do automatically, with hardly any thought at all, but which we had to learn.
In the beginning of my life as a Christian I must consciously make decisions about how to react to others and how to order my new life. Eventually, though, if I am practicing these things on a regular basis, that should become easier and easier. How long have I been a Christian yet I still fly off the handle, still say things I should not say, still lower myself to the level of the world by seeking revenge over the silliest things in the most childish ways? I must not be working hard enough to change those habits, for that is what they are, and they can be changed with enough effort, and with the help of Christ. I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Phil 4:13.
This does not mean there will no longer be moments of weakness, times when I am more susceptible to my old behaviors. But if those old behaviors are still constant in my life, where is the transformation Paul talks about in Romans 12? Why have I not become more closely conformed to the image of his son, (Rom 8:29)? Something about me is supposed to have undergone a permanent change!
Certainly, I must have my mind on my prayers and the words I sing. I must listen consciously and carefully to those who seek to edify me. My worship must not be rote. But there is something to be said for operating on automatic pilot in my spiritual life. At some point it must reach past what I do, and become a matter of who I am. If this never happens, then something is missing, and I need to find it—and fix it—soon.
Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new, 2 Cor 5:17.
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