Spiritual Disciplines: The Holy Habit of Study (@longingtobeholy)


Some little luxuries you might have given up for Lent.

You will probably have noticed that we have now entered the season of Lent.  Like many blogs, BigBible has both acknowledged and embraced this.  For many, Lent is a season of self-denial.  This may be avoiding a luxury or two, like chocolate (I know, some people consider chocolate a need, not a luxury…)  Or it may be giving up something else altogether for the duration of Lent.  And so you may think, given the season, that this month would be a good time to address the Spiritual Discipline of fasting.  The Holy Habit of giving something up (usually food) and shifting our focus from whatever we’ve given up, on to God.

But strangely, we’re not going to look at fasting this month.  Instead, I’m going to suggest a slightly different approach to Lent.  Lent as a time of preparation.  For Jesus, Lent (His time spent in the wilderness) was what came before His time of public ministry.  So I’m going to suggest that this month, we focus on the discipline of study.  Study with a view to learning about God.

Some years ago, I was talking with a friend about cars.  I mentioned that my first ever car was a Renault 21 ‘Monaco’.  He responded along the lines of ‘oh, isn’t that the model with leather seats and bronze paintwork?’  Now, ‘bronze’ is rather more flattering a term for its colour than my students used to use (‘The Poo Car’), but in essence, my friend was right.  How did he know this?  Because he had studied.  This study came not from any external pressures, but simply from a desire to learn more about cars.

If you’ve seen the film Erin Brockovich, you might remember the scene where her filing system is questioned by a couple of characters who join the firm to support its work.  She responds by reeling off names, telephone numbers, addresses, and numerous key facts about the families she has been working with.  How does she have all this information in her head?  She’s studied.  She’s studied because she cares.

Which brings me back to the discipline of study, and specifically its purpose.  When we are considering the spiritual discipline of study, we are looking at one way of furthering our relationship with God.  It’s not like studying at school, so much of which is geared simply to passing exams.  (I, for one, am profoundly thankful there’s no entrance exam for heaven…)  It’s more like the actions of friends or lovers who watch and study each other as part of the process of deepening their relationship.

So, this month, I’d encourage you to study.  And to give you a specific aim, I’m going to make what might seem like an odd suggestion.  I want you to study someone.  Find someone who you can learn about, but, through learning about them, you can learn about God.


Just a handful of the biographies on my shelf. Each one has plenty to teach me about God.

I’d suggest one of two approaches:  either choose a Bible character and spend a serious amount of time examining their life, their words, their actions and their relationship with God.  Elsewhere on BigBible, you’ll see that we’re progressing slowly and carefully through Exodus, so perhaps find an individual in there that you can study.  Alternatively, you could choose a biography or autobiography of a Christian that you can read and, in the same way, study their life, their words, their actions.  Through your study, aim to learn primarily about God from the individual you have chosen.  Allow their lives to teach you about God.  Desire to learn more about Him and from Him.  And then begin to examine your own life for changes that need to be brought about as a result of your study.

And finally, blog about it.  When you’ve chosen your individual (Hosea is currently at the top of my list, but it may be that I choose someone else instead – Mother Teresa’s jostling for pole position too…) just add their name into the comments section.  This might help you to commit to the task.  Towards the middle of next month, write a blog post about it on your own blog and put a link to your post in the comments section.  If you don’t have your own blog, approach someone who does and ask if they’d accept a guest post 🙂

I’m really excited about the potential impact of this month.  I certainly have a lot to learn.  Join in!

About Nick Parish

Nick is a stay at home Dad who’s slowly learning that this fact doesn’t need to be justified by adding things like, ‘I’m writing a book’, and ‘I’m a Special Constable with Derbyshire Police’ (though both these facts are true…) He is heavily outnumbered by girls during term time, living in a boarding school in the Midlands. He grew up (ish) in Pakistan, returning to England at the age of 14. Though he’s happy to think of both places at home, he keeps reminding himself that he’ll never really be home this side of eternity. He is married to Anna, who runs the boarding house in which they live, and they have two boys, Joshua and Luke. He blogs at longingtobeholy.wordpress.com and Tweets @longingtobeholy