On Habitats and Habits

ROCKWALL/HEATH, TX (Jan. 1, 2015) My family survived the summer of the arachnids.

First there were ticks. Not a few ticks on our dogs but a full-on invasion into our house. By summer’s end, tired of drowning more than 100 ticks per day and making constant trips to the sink or toilet, we set up death pools all over the house–old yogurt containers half-filled with water.

Then there were spiders. While working in the yard one Monday, I received three Black Widow bites behind my left ear. By Tuesday afternoon I grew delirious. By evening the area became a puffy rash that marched—like Sherman to the sea—across my face, from one ear to the other. The bites knocked me out for two weeks.

Researching how to reduce the arachnid presence in our home, we found one preeminent principle: Control the environment. We learned that wood piles and tall grass provide a welcoming habitat for ticks and spiders. Wood piles and tall grass also happened to be the exact environment I had allowed in our yard. It hadn’t seemed like a big deal to mow but not trim, or to leave wood on the ground. Now it was a big deal.

The tick invasion and spider bites oddly coincided with a different type of threatened environment, my heart. I do not mean sin per se, but I had allowed seemingly harmless habits to grow: listening to a never-ending stream of podcasts; glancing at blogs every spare moment; turning on a sitcom when the children went to bed; and a knee-jerk instinct to immediately Google the most trivial questions that come to mind.

These kinds of habits are no more sinful than tall grass is inherently dangerous. Yet, as God called me to a season of abstaining from them, the unhealthy environment they created became exposed. That habitat was hostile to prayer, meditation on the gospel, and communion with the triune God. Furthermore, the incessant information fostered an environment in which pride, lust, and discontent could survive and even thrive. The less my heart had moments of rest and reflection throughout the day, the more sinful inclinations could take up residence—unchallenged.

Until all things are made new, the grass will grow and intruders will encroach.  Meanwhile disciplines such as silence and journaling will trim down the distractions in my heart’s environment and reclaim it as a place to dwell with God. For this joy I will examine any threatening habitat.

The tall grass matters.

By Chris Davis, a preaching pastor at Whitton Avenue Bible Church in Phoenix. He and his wife, Rachael, have three young children. He also serves with Blue Ribbon News contributor Patti Richter on a team of International Outreach writers for The Gospel Coalition.

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