The door of the hall closet was getting progressively harder to open. As the building's timbers dried, the door jammed more until one day I had to put my foot against the wall and grasp the knob with both hands to pull it open.
A carpenter came to fix it, and after that, it opened with ease. But for about a month I continued to pull it open with force, each time flinging myself across the room when I met with no resistance.
This comic encounter reminded me how often we get into habits that are counterproductive and sometimes even harmful. We unconsciously hold on to these familiar patterns, not realizing that at any moment we can let them go and have things work as they should.
Sometimes these habits are longstanding attitudes about ourselves, such as "I always feel shy in social situations," or "I will never be a good public speaker." Sometimes it's an attitude toward a particular individual we might not feel well disposed toward. Or an attitude toward a whole group of people.
I hit up against the last in a stark way some years ago.
I was waiting for the bus home after a fraught day at work when I saw a ragged, homeless-looking woman heading in my direction. I had already sized her up by the time she sat down on the bench next to me and was ready to hand over some change when the request came.
But she didn't ask for money. She simply asked how my day had been.
I thought, OK, this is a more oblique approach, but I was sure that money would enter the conversation soon.
I told her it had been a long day, and she said she'd had a long day, too. We then continued to have a tender, intelligent exchange. And I suddenly thought how callous and judgmental I had been, categorizing her as homeless, unkempt, begging – and, by implication, of little value or interest.
If I'd identified her from a higher, more spiritual standpoint, as God identifies each of His children, I would have welcomed her sitting down next to me, thinking that, in fact, she was a whole, beautiful, vibrant idea, just as I was. And that wouldn't change even if she did ask for money. As we chatted on, she showed great care and concern for me, a total stranger, and never asked for anything. That encounter broke my habit for good.
When we listen closely to our spiritual intuitions, God's thoughts ever communicating with us, we can switch course in our viewpoint without fear. That spiritual intuition, free of the baggage of old routines, enables us to respond in the most inspired way to whatever circumstances are thrown in our path.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, wrote: "... prayer, coupled with a fervent habitual desire to know and do the will of God, will bring us into all Truth. Such a desire has little need of audible expression. It is best expressed in thought and in life" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 11).
The best habit is to listen for Love's direction, trusting it even when it doesn't fit our traditional approach. Staying receptive to these intuitions, we won't get stuck in unproductive habits.
Search me, O God,
and know my heart:
try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be
any wicked way in me,
and lead me
in the way everlasting.
Psalms 139:23, 24