Each night, I lock the gate and place the keys on a certain spot. I have been doing this over and over, week after week, month after month. When I was with sister, sometimes she would do it; and sometimes, we’d both forget or don’t do it thinking the other person had already done it. Now, with no one around, I make it a point to do it every single night.
When it started, it was burdensome and there were times when I would forget or question why I should lock the gate anyway. But with repeated practice, I am finding it to be much easier. One night, I surprised myself. I have been busy with some work for which I arrived home late. And my mind was preoccupied that I didn’t remember how I got myself into my room. Then I came to my senses and awareness of my surroundings and went to lock the gate. But I found it locked and the key was in its usual place!! I have already done it unaware.
That is how Christian character-building works; N.T Wright seems to say in his book ‘After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters’. Several years after I became a Christian, I am realizing in a fresh way that it requires practice to build spiritual character. It doesn’t have to feel right to begin with. It may not come naturally at the beginning. But you do it anyway; practicing the fruit of the Spirit and spiritual disciplines until Christian character is built in you. And it matters to have cultivated character for you never know when the time will come when you will need it. In times of crisis, Patience cannot be instinctively generated at the moment of need, for someone who lacks it. But if you want Patience, it is something that you ought to cultivate day in and day out until that character comes ‘naturally’ to you.
Easier said than done. To change one's behavior is the most difficult thing to do in the world. That is why, we need the power and help of the Holy Spirit...and keep working at it.