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You are what you love

James K A Smith

Earlier this year we thought together about habits. A habit is a behaviour that occurs automatically, over and over, often unconsciously. Habits develop over time, sometimes deliberately, sometimes unintentionally, and they form us for good or bad. For example most of us brush our teeth in the morning, probably at the same point in our routine. We don't really think about it. The trick then, is to develop habits that put us in the path of grace.

The book that ended up informing our sermon series on habits was Justin Whitmel Earley's The Common Rule. The Common Rule offers four daily and four weekly habits, designed to help us create new routines and transform frazzled days into lives of love for God and neighbour.

However, today I'd like to highlight, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, by James K.A. Smith. Smith asserts that humans fundamentally do not behave based on what we think but, rather, on what we want, what we love.

“You Are What You Love” is among the best books I’ve read on habits. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I usually dislike re-reading books, but I will be coming back to this one for sure. I love the author’s mind and creativity. This book is full of insight and profundity on everything from the Book of Common prayer to how George Lucas created the Star Wars universe, even the “liturgy” of the shopping mall.

Here’s the Koorong blurb:

“In this book, award-winning author James K. A. Smith shows that who and what we worship fundamentally shape our hearts. And while we desire to shape culture, we are not often aware of how culture shapes us. We might not realize the ways our hearts are being taught to love rival gods instead of the One for whom we were made. Smith helps readers recognize the formative power of culture and the transformative possibilities of Christian practices. He explains that worship is the “imagination station” that incubates our loves and longings so that our cultural endeavors are indexed toward God and his kingdom. This is why the church and worshiping in a local community of believers should be the hub and heart of Christian formation and discipleship”.

Here is Tim Keller’s summary and commendation:

“James K. A. Smith’s You Are What You Love provides a user-friendly introduction to the sweeping Augustinian insight that we are shaped most by what we love most, more so than by what we think or do. If sin and virtue are disordered and rightly ordered love, respectively, and if the only way to change is to change what we worship, then this will lead us to rethink how we conduct Christian work and ministry. Jamie gives some foundational ideas on how this affects our corporate worship, our Christian education and formation, and our vocations in the world. An important, provocative volume!”

Post Script: If I had to recommend one secular book on taking small steps consistently, my current choice would be James Clear’s Atomic Habits. It’s accessible, well-written, and provides practical tools tailored for average, struggling people.

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