“The Lord be with you!” (“And also with you,” I imagine hearing from cyberspace!) In case you didn't know, this is how Lutherans begin everything--so I suppose it works for a blog as well.
My name is Kristin Johnston Largen and I teach Systematic Theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg--it's a great place to be. I have a husband, John, also a Lutheran pastor--he is the Pastor to the Seminary Community for Spiritual Formation at Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC; and I have a little Jack Russell Terrier, Henry, whom I image will play a prominent role here in the weeks and months to come: he's the best dog in the whole wide world—the cutest, too.
I decided to write a blog in anticipation of my sabbatical travels that will start this spring, and include Israel, India, Japan, and Turkey. It's going to be an amazing adventure, as I will be exploring different religious beliefs and practices in those places, and what they mean for Christianity. I want to share those experiences. But, since I haven't blogged much before, I thought I should start ahead of time to get some practice—and here's where the title of my post comes in: the practice of developing habits.
I'm teaching Ethics this fall, using a text written by Sam Wells--I've come to love his work on improvisation as a way of thinking about the ethical life. Anyway, he uses the statement by the Duke of Wellington, "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton," as a way of emphasizing the need to develop good Christian habits (through worship, sacraments, etc.) over time, so that when the moment comes when you really need to be "that" person in a crisis, those habits come to the fore naturally, without even thinking about it, and you find that you ARE that person already.
As I was reading Wells talk about this, it reminded me of a book my book group read a few months ago, “Sarah’s Key.” [I think the movie is out now]. Anyway, it is about the round-up and deportation of Jews in France during WWII. Of course, we got to talking about what we would do in such a situation—all of us hoping, of course, that we would be the person who would stand up to the authorities and help the persecuted, even at great cost to ourselves. I remember saying at the time, though, that it is wishful thinking to assume that one would be able to act with such courage in the big things if one’s life had not exemplified such courage in the small things.
To take a contemporary example, you are not going to be the person who steps in when a Muslim woman is being publicly berated if for the past year you have been the person who didn't say anything while friends/co-workers etc. were saying negative things about Islam in general. In other words, you can't run a marathon without all the countless hours of training runs.
What I am trying to say is that we all need training, formation, and practice to be the people God is calling us to be, in all aspects of our lives. It's not easy, but as any runner knows, both the training and the race itself are their own reward. The time and effort spent developing Christian habits are also their own reward; the ability to be “that” person when the moment comes is just icing on the cake.