"The faith life is like anything else," says Bishop Hughes: "We have to build that muscle, we've got to get stronger at it, we have to practice, we have to learn how to get better at something, we've got to make the decision to nurture it." (Time: 3:52.)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark. We are just about a week past "Resolution Ditch Day." That is the day, January 17, that is officially called the day that most people leave behind the New Year's resolution that they planned on. And you know, those plans came out of the greatest intentions. It's the start of a fresh year, and you think I'm going to take this thing on, we're excited about it, we're committed to it. It takes a while for a new habit to become something strong that you stay with, you have to do it over and over and over again, for at least two solid weeks, sometimes three solid weeks before it becomes habit for that new behavior. And by the 17th day of the month, most people have left those things behind. Therefore, "Resolution Ditch Day."
Something that we have learned as people of faith, particularly people practicing a liturgical faith, is the ability to continue on even when you reach past that point, or you're in the midst of that point, where you ditch something, walk away from it. Those of us who've experienced Lent know that sometimes we take something on or we give something up for Lent. And a week or two goes by and we might meander away from that plan that we had. And rather than just say, "I'm done with it," we go, "You know what, I'm going to just jump back in there again." Usually that happens to us because of a church service that we went to, we go on Sunday, we hear the message and we think, "I'm not ready to give that thing up. I'm not ready to stop. I'm not going to ditch that plan that I had for my spiritual life."
So I want to offer that to us now, as faithful people who probably took something on new, one of the things that I've asked people to consider in this diocese is make this be the year that we take our faith lives incredibly seriously. That we nurture them well, that we set time apart, that we read the books, that we go on retreat, that we listen to the speakers in the podcast, that we spend more time in prayer, that we spend more time actually trying to understand what it is we're reading in the Bible, that this is the year I've asked us to do that. And you may have started and started strong and may have felt like, "Okay, I'm going to ditch this plan." But think of it like you would a Lenten practice. We start off strong often, and then we meander, and then we get right back on it and and continue on.
And that is what the faith life is all about. There isn't this kind of going from good, better, best. There isn't going from strength to strength. There isn't this kind of smooth sailing, I've made a decision, I'm going to be a more prayerful person, a more faithful person, and we're done with it. It's like anything else, we have to build that muscle, we've got to get stronger at it, we have to practice, we have to learn how to get better at something, we've got to make the decision to nurture it.
So whatever it is that you've been thinking of that I want to take on this year, I know a couple of our churches are looking at reading the Bible in the whole year. And I've had people talk with me about wanting to seriously spend time considering how they pray out loud. And then of course, we're working with people in my study group this year on how to talk about the faith. Whatever it is that you want to take on. When that moment comes where you think, "It's time to ditch this new behavior or this new practice," I want to encourage you, give it a day, pick it back up again and keep on going. That's how we get strong in the faith. We keep picking it up and we keep on going.