Grafting New Habits


By Chris Surber

I have never kept even one New Year’s Resolution. Not one! I still eat too much. I definitely don’t exercise as often as I should. You name the resolution. I’ve made it and broken it, and probably more than once! However, I have grafted some new patterns into my life the last few years. Here is what I mean.

I have served a few churches in farming communities. I was talking to a farmer one day about sermon illustrations for getting more spiritual fruit in our lives. I was picking his brain for ideas from his fields. He said, “You know what you need?” I replied, “No. That’s why I asked you!” He said, “You need to teach people the value of grafting fruitful branches onto fruitful roots.” He went on to explain the process of grafting one kind of fruit tree, known for its fruitfulness, onto the rooted trunk of another, known for its healthy roots.

The trouble with New Year’s Resolutions is that they are usually “all in” self-contracts. Most of us are not very good at contracts with ourselves to begin with. The person with whom we’ve made the contract likes us too much and tends to be very lenient when we fail to keep the bargain! We didn’t get overweight overnight. We didn’t fall into the patterns we want to break in a day. But somehow we think we are going to change in an instant because of a contract made without any enforcement? No.

I have found that when we graft new patterns into our lives they are far more successful. Choose the fruit you want to see more of in your life. Press it into your life one branch at a time until it takes hold. It will begin to find nurturance from the healthy roots already present in your life. Then, when that first branch has healthily bonded to the tree of your life, nourish it until you begin to see some fruit. Then carefully add another branch and repeat.

If you are a resolution keeping rock star, more power to you! If you are anything like me, you’ll be more successful “grafting.” Instead, make a simple decision to carefully graft new branches, that is, new patterns, choices, and habit building decisions, one at a time onto the tree of your life. Be patient. Be consistent. Bear fruit! “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Dr. Chris Surber is Senior Minister at Mt. Hope Congregational Church in Livonia, MI. He is also the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti. Visit him online at:


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