Written by Fiona Botha
How many of us start the year with the intention of getting stuck into the Word of God every single day? And then a few months into the year life becomes crazy, and even with the best intentions, we slip up. By June we find ourselves stopping and starting. Failing. Starting again. And just generally frustrated and wanting to give up building this habit – even though we know how beneficial it might be.
Some of you may be thinking it's just because you tried starting a habit at an inconvenient time. A while ago I would have agreed with you. It often feels like the stars need to align before we can successfully create a new, positive habit in our lives.
In September, I challenged myself to get back into reading the Word, by reading a chapter from Proverbs every day. Quite honestly, I felt like the Bible had become stale. I felt like I was reading the same things over and over. The revelation and wonder were no longer there. So I thought trying Proverbs, a book I hadn't gotten stuck into, was a good idea. I also didn't want to overwhelm myself, so focusing on a chapter a day seemed manageable.
I remembered previously experiencing Proverbs like a collection of riddles that I struggled to apply to my daily life. So, I decided to try a different Bible translation - The Passion Translation (TPT). Sometimes it's as simple as having something phrased differently for you to gain insight, understanding, and re-ignite your passion and excitement for the Word.
I got to day 13.
I had failed.
So when October started, instead of sitting back defeated, I decided to try again. This time I succeeded.
This is what I learned while reading the 31 chapters of Proverbs during the 31 days of October:
1. Proverbs is mind-blowing!
No really, there is so much practical wisdom in there. It's great. So great I am considering re-reading it every month because there is too much in there to grasp the first time around.
2. Accountability is key.
Five friends and I committed to reading a chapter from Proverbs a day. It helped me because I am slightly competitive; I didn't want to be the last one to read the chapter. Also, the YouVersion Bible app makes this so easy. It was great to be able to share thoughts, ideas, and questions - that is what growth in practice is.
3. I wasn't perfect.
I didn't have a 100% track record. I missed a few days here and there, especially over weekends. I realised it's not about how many times you fail but about how quickly you get back on track. It’s much easier catching up on one day than several at a time.
4. Just finish.
Even if it takes you twice as long, finish. I didn't manage to finish reading all of Proverbs on the last day of October; it took me an extra two days. But I didn't let that stop me because I was determined to finish. That sense of accomplishment and success that comes with completing something doesn't have an expiry date, and you need to complete the task even if it is later than you wanted or planned.
5. Celebrate the smallest victories.
We tend to only focus on the end and not the journey with all the milestones we pass on the way. Celebrate these milestones however small and trivial; it makes all the difference. It helps keep you motivated and makes the journey more fun. I celebrated making it past the halfway mark - day 16. High-five! I then celebrated when the Bible app informed me of having managed a perfect week of reading a chapter every day. High-five! A 13- day streak. High-five! Skipped two days, but caught up the third day. High-five! I high-fived my husband for every small success.
This seems easy. I even managed to summarise it into only five points. But consider how many professional athletes there are in the world - significantly less than the average person. The difference between us mere mortals and professional athletes is how quickly they get back to their good habits.
So don't feel discouraged at any past failures, start again. If you stop, pick up the excellent habit as soon as you can — no need to wait for the New Year to start new habits.
Why not start today?