You are what you love, you love what you desire, your desire shapes your habits, your habits shape your worship, your worship shapes your identity, you are what you love…
Got all that?
Let’s break it down backwards just to be clear!
First, you are what you love because what we love shapes our identity (what kind of person we are). This isn’t just touchy-feely love that is formative. The deep longings of our soul shape our lives and make us who we are. Thus, who we are, or our identity, is shaped by what we worship and long for. Whatever our vision of the good life is, that becomes our goal and our lives flow out of that. The pursuit of that goal constitutes worship. We have set something on the throne of our lives and we are “all in” on it. Thus worship shapes our identity.
We may think we’re worshipping what our doctrinal statement says we are, but we often don’t worship what we think we’re supposed to. We may say we worship God, but actions speak louder than words. Worship is formed by habits of heart, not necessarily mental assertions. That’s because the habits of heart demonstrate what our hearts are really oriented towards. We form habits, but we’re also formed by them. Habits are the actions we fall back on, our comfort zone, and often make up our false self with deceitful desires because they’re our “default”.
Think about what constitutes your comfort zone, or your status quo, relationally and spiritually. Maybe we isolate because we’re afraid of something in our hearts being exposed, maybe we react to shameful messages in anger, maybe we respond with anxiety and obsessive control when our lives get hard. Whatever the reaction is, the more we do it, the deeper the groove we get into and the more our hearts are oriented towards the wrong thing. These are habits of heart, and things we need to recognize as forming and reinforcing our desires. They are different than other outward actions we may easily identify as habits, but may be even more powerful. The point is that both the obvious and subtle habits have formative power and are shaped by desires.
Desires shape our habits because as we consistently chase after the God (or gods) we desire, our habits get stronger and stronger. What we subconsciously desire is always going to show up in our habits because our loves always dictate what we do, how we interact, and how we respond in various circumstances. They show what we love, and now we’ve come full circle! You are what you love.
This analysis flies in the face of what author James K.A. Smith calls “thinking-thingism”. It’s the idea that we’re basically heads on a stick and our actions are simply the natural outworking of what’s in our brains. Although all your teachers may tell you otherwise, it’s just not true. When it comes down to actions, we do what we want primarily, not what we think. Now do thoughts inform our desires? Of course, but desires are ultimately what’s behind actions. How many times have you sinned this week where you knew in your brain that it was wrong but you just wanted to do it? Scripture wisely places the heart at the center of human volition. Our hearts are what need to ultimately change if our actions are to change. It’s not that knowledge is obsolete. It’s quite necessary. But by itself it is insufficient to change us.
So how can we change? God doesn’t just zap us right? A key part of change, and one that’s talked about at length in the book “You Are What You Love”, is a re-formation of our habits. We have to rethink where our habits come from and how they affect us. They aren’t just something we do, they do something to us! To get through to our hearts, we need to go through the body and its habits. We are embodied souls, not just clouds of information floating around acting on our hard drives. We must re-evaluate what story we’re living in, and how the natural inclinations of our heart need to be uncovered. The first step is exposing them for what they are, and obtaining a clear vision of how they form us. Once we’re there we can begin the Spirit-fueled, difficult work of habit transformation and virtue formation. We can’t go through life on autopilot, everything must be captivated and submitted to Christ!