You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith
I rarely read a book twice, but I’m going to make an exception in this case. This is a book that everyone interested in discipleship should read. It isn’t light reading. The author goes back and forth between writing as a college professor and writing as a parent. In my opinion, the parent parts are the most helpful. My intent is to create a blog post summarizing each chapter. My hope is that these posts will motivate you to get the book and read it. Selfishly, I know that attempting to summarize each chapter will help me internalize the content of the book.
What do you want? If you’re a child sitting on the stage during the children’s sermon the obvious answer is Jesus. As adults watching we know that’s the “right” answer, but we also know something else. We know these children and we know that they have many wants, most of which have little to do with Jesus. We know this because we know it is true of us. The main point of the book is that Jesus cares more about what we want than about what we know.
An illustration of this comes from John 5 and his interaction with the invalid by the pool of Bethesda.
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6 NIV)
Jesus is asking the man what he wants. He doesn’t ask him what he knows. The man answers Jesus’ question in a way that might be strange to us. He answers with what he is constantly doing which is a clear indication of what he wants, to be made well. Jesus then gives him what he desires.
We say we want Jesus, but how do we become more like Jesus? Do we become more like Jesus by what we think or by what we do? If it is by what we think, then all our classes and studies should result in people who are looking more like Jesus every day. If, as the author contends, it is by what we do, then we are likely to see a different result. Since our lives and even our gatherings as believers tend to mimic popular culture we should expect to see people who look more like the popular people in our culture than they look like Jesus.
This is why worship is the heart of discipleship. We can’t counter the power of cultural liturgies with didactic information poured into our intellects. We can’t recalibrate the heart from the top down, through merely informational measures. The orientation of the heart happens from the bottom up, through the formation of our habits of desire. Learning to love (God) takes practice. – James K. A. Smith in You Are What You Love
The connection between worship and discipleship is one that is new to me. I believe that worship is a 24/7 activity that reflects the attitude of my heart. I would argue that by examining my lifestyle, my daily habits, I can discover what I truly want. Even how I approach the Sunday morning gathering of believers tells me much about what I desire. The author contends that if I want to redirect my desire toward God I don’t need to learn more, I need to do different things and do them repetitively until they become habits.
For my grandchildren:
What do you want? Think twice before you say Jesus.