I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been away for a few days, I’m always glad to get back home. My comfy bed. My own home cooking. Control over the central heating. Easy access to my computer, emails and so on. My space, my stuff, my rules!
One of my daughters now lives in Romania. She has her own apartment there, but I’m sure there are many differences from the old country. She has had to make a lot of adjustments – new foods, new laws, walking rather than driving, new culture…a whole new way of doing life. Things which were once ‘normal routine’ are changed. But when she visits home, the old norms kick back in again, just like before she went away.
Abraham had left the old country and settled in Canaan. He had adapted to the new country – the place God had promised his people would one day own, and had no intention of returning. The last thing he wanted, was for his son Isaac to return to the old country and get comfortable there. It was paramount that he stayed in position in Canaan.
Humans operate very much by default mechanisms – we just do what we’ve always done, unless we decide to exert a whole lot of effort to change. Say I’m overweight because I eat too much and exercise too little, so I go on a diet. Now I have to make extraordinary effort – think about every single thing that goes near my mouth, put more effort into cooking healthy food, and remember to walk instead of ride to work. After a few weeks it gets easier, more of a habit; and then I realize this has to be a new way of living, not just a quick fix. After a long while it becomes a new default, and I lose my taste for sweet stuff, and enjoy feeling fit. But then I go away on a cruise, eat all the wonderful banquets put before me, laze around by the pool, and come home twice the size! I’ve gone back to the old country – the old ways of doing life. Again, I must make great exertions to revert to my new healthy self.
People who have had to overcome addictions know this sort of scenario only too well. A little excursion to the ‘old country’ demonstrates only too easily where they’ve come from. The old defaults quickly snatch hold and drag you back to the old ways.
But the same principle operates for anyone trying to live a godly life. Old habits die hard, as the saying goes. There are so many areas we try to make progress in to get our lives fit for God to use e.g.-
- poor use of time (playing mindless computer games or watching low quality TV),
- poor use of finance (I just have to have it),
- poor self-discipline (diet, bed times, devotional times, language…)
- you add your own struggles
You make some progress, and then slip back again, and it’s just so hard to break free of old defaults. Abraham gave his servant the task of ensuring that Isaac did not go back, (Genesis 24 v 3 – 8) and maybe that’s a good principle. A friend of mine has asked me to hold her accountable for some areas of her self-discipline. I think that is so brave, and so biblical. We are meant to be a body, and support one another. It’s important that we journey towards and make the ‘new country’ our home. We all need others to help us keep on track!