What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
I checked it out on Google. There is no consensus on how long it takes to make (or break) a habit.
But most agree it takes a while - at least 3 weeks, maybe 30 days, perhaps longer. But there is a clear sense that for something to become natural, to become a pattern for us, it requires doing the same thing over and over in a particular and disciplined way. You learn how to throw a ball or serve by practicing. If you want to perfect the "double decrease" and hold a conversation while you're doing it, you're going to have to work on the stitch in your spare time. Ask Mary Jaslowski about it. When you move to a new place, it takes awhile to quit reaching for that light switch that was on the left in the old place, but is on the right in the new one.
I've learned recently the design is even embedded in our physiology. We go to physical therapists to retrain muscles that have "locked" in detrimental positions. They may have originally gone there to compensate for an injury, but they remain because they've formed a habit that needs to be massaged out so the ropey muscle can flatten out, return to its proper length and work according to its design. So much for the quick fix!
One of the things I love about our religious traditions is at their root, at their best, they were shaped according to our best understandings of what help us to thrive - "that you may live" as Jesus said it. There is, of course, this ever-present danger of all kinds of "injury" and "offense" that can hamper our efforts and misshape our religion. Jesus talked about those too. But those roots seem to be pretty reliable when we resist dogmatism and go back to them with an open mind and creative intellect.
So it is with Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday, February 17th and continues for 40 days until the new life of Easter arrives - Forty days? Hmm, that's a pretty good length of time to form a new habit, isn't it?
Where do you want to be that you aren't? Aren't you a parent or grandparent who hovers a little more than you'd like? Do you see patterns in your response to your spouse that you'd like to change? Would you be more settled if you had your homework done before dinner so you could have the evening to relax? Would you like to become a more thankful person? A more giving person?
Perhaps you'll find the season of Lent to be just the gift you're looking for to make your way back to the life you crave.
Chuck Sigars is currently an elder at St. Andrew and a newspaper columnist and author.