You are what you love: the spiritual power of habit

Samantha Gassaway reflects on James Smith’s talk regarding spiritual habits and the incredible thunderstorm that happened moments after.


Samantha Gassaway, Writer

Jesus asks in the gospel of Mark, “What do you want?” In light of the symbolism portrayed here, we should all acknowledge the importance our heart plays in our spiritual health and development. Dr. James K.A. Smith, professor of philosophy and Calvin College in Michigan, portrays a life in which the average Christian is focused on their loves, their desires, and their orientation to the end goal which they wish to reach above all. The “telos,” or goal, of every human being is meant to be God the creator. Indeed, it always has been.

Smith illuminated his audience in understanding the difference between “knowing” and “wanting.” Jesus does not ask us what we know of him, he asks us what we want, and drastically changes that to become more akin to his wants and desires. The “center of the human being is not the mind, but the “kardia,” or the heart. Smith utilized a metaphor penned by Augustine when thinking about the crucifixion of Christ: Adam was sent into a deep sleep in order for his bride to be fashioned–Christ was put to sleep on the cross, and from his side flowed the sacraments of his bride, the church.

In Philippians 1, Paul stresses the “prayer manifesto of what Biola education should be,” which is a desire to orient our wants to Christ’s wants, to love as he loved, to give as he gave. Smith stressed that even when we are only a mere two degrees off course, it can lead to disastrous and devastating consequences. The goal of the Christian life is to have love as a subconscious desire. Sanctification is rehabilitation. We are to lay every decision we have on the altar of worship, to trust Christ with our lives as a response to the inviting question of Christ to alter our desires. We are called to love in a new way, and to lay our choices on the altar of sacrifice, in order to be altered by God.

In the moments after the message and corporate worship, the clouds fell to gray, and the brilliant yet scarce stars grew dim. Shelby Shutt stepped onto the stage to guide the lawn in prayer and reflection. As she spoke of God’s mercies and our orientation in view of them, thunder shook the earth, and the crowd gazed about in wonder and expectation. As she began to pray, simply saying the name “Jesus,” brilliant lightning struck La Mirada and the crowd was illuminated in bright light. Thunder continued to roar as Shutt offered a prayer of focus and of recollection, pointing back to God’s mercy and dismissing the crowd as a torrent of rain soaked all who sat on Metzger lawn that night.


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