March 20, 2021

You Are Not What You Repeatedly Do

March 20, 2021

By James Wells, Director of Choral Ministries


Psalm 51:1-12

I have been told that teachers often teach the way they have been taught. It certainly makes sense. Oftentimes, we even find that lessons in the classroom parallel with spiritual lessons.

Recently I came upon an example of where my classroom lesson was not consistent with God’s grace and mercy in our personal lives.

In my early years of public school music teaching, I often recall using the phrase “you are what you repeatedly do”.

I am not sure where I learned it or who first said it, but when it comes to daily habits, routines, and being effective, it’s a phrase that has always impacted me.

In the context of the music classroom this phrase is intended to be used to create good habits and a good classroom environment.

In the music classroom when working towards a goal as a group, whether it is a Choir or an instrumental ensemble, good habits must be repeated over and over to achieve your goal. Students at a young age (or perhaps any age) don’t necessarily understand what beauty or excellence sounds like unless you share it with them or show them how to create it themselves. Creating a positive, disciplined, even playful routine can (with repetition) ultimately create a spirit of unity and teamwork where beauty and excellence can exist. 

In our own personal lives, the repetition of something that separates us from the goodness of God, hurts us and others is sin. The longer we live the more we recognize our own sinful repetitions, whatever they may be. The psalmist David (in a moment of reflection after committing adultery with Bathsheba) writes in Psalm 51:3-6. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desire faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.” 

Wow, really? Sinful even at birth? Not sure how I feel about that, but I do believe that even with all our imperfections, God can teach us wisdom even in those secret places of our lives.

If you are like me, perhaps you find yourself often in sinful moments of hypocrisy. Judging someone for their actions when you are perhaps doing the same thing, but for whatever reason it seems justified in your situation.

You know, those self-serving moments? Like that time Judas said “why pour all that expensive perfume on Jesus’s feet? That could’ve been sold and given to the poor!” Little did I know until I read this story again, the scriptures say Judas was not concerned for the poor, he had created a habit of “repeatedly“ dipping his hand into the donations for Jesus’ ministry.

What’s the good news? 

The good news is that we do not have to become “what we repeatedly do”.

God is bigger than all of our distractions and our bad habits. Jesus was sent for each and every one of us and his sacrifice covers every sin.

The power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus left with his disciples on earth, is still the same spirit with us today.

In addition, let us be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to work through those around us.

Find accountability in groups of people who you know and trust. Those people that you know you can share personal struggles. Let us not be afraid to be vulnerable. Showing our own weaknesses may inspire others to do the same. It is in these moments of letting down our guard and being open and honest that healing and forgiveness can happen. 

Let us pray the same prayer of repentance prayed by the Psalmist David…“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Thanks be to God that “we are not what we repeatedly do”.