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Oct 11, 2023 | News

By: Joel Pearsall, NNU President

Habit: “A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up…” Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford Press 2010, 2017

I really love words! I am fascinated by words, their meaning(s), and their origins. Most of us use words to express our deepest thoughts and feelings. I have discovered that words also evoke emotions and feelings in each one of us—sometimes positive and sometimes negative. Thus, I am almost certain that the word “habit” evokes feelings in each person who will read this brief note, and I would venture a guess that for most readers, the feeling is negative.

As indicated above, Oxford Dictionary begins to define “habit” in a neutral sort of way. But then it turns to a negative connotation by referencing that a habit is “hard to give up.” The assumption is that habits are always bad. However, here at NNU, we believe that there are good and holy habits, and we intentionally seek to instill certain holy habits in each NNU student.

The NNU mission statement reads, in part: “…the NNU education instills habits of heart, soul, mind and strength…” Those of you familiar with the Gospel of Mark likely recognize these words, for it is in Mark 12:28-34 where we read of Jesus’ encounter with a teacher of the law and in response to the teacher’s inquiry as to which is the most important commandment, Jesus replies: “The most important one…is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:29-30, NIV)

At NNU, we believe that Jesus’ response was not only relevant to one teacher of the law 2,000 years ago but to all of us today. Consequently, in all we do at NNU, we seek to instill healthy and sacred habits of heart, soul, mind and strength in each one of our students because it is only then that the end of our mission statement can be realized: “… to enable each student to become God’s creative and redemptive agent in the world.”

Throughout this issue of The Messenger, you will read stories of alumni and students that tell of the habits of heart, soul, mind and strength that were instilled (or are being instilled) in them at NNU. These habits opened their eyes to need in the world, reshaped their hearts to feel the compassion that Jesus felt as He looked at a broken world, and now compel them to serve others and, quite literally, make the world a better place. These sacred and holy habits cause students to follow the second commandment that Jesus spoke to the teacher in that passage from Mark’s Gospel: “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31, NIV)

So, grab a cup of coffee (one of my habits), settle in, maybe grab some tissues (I needed some as I read these stories of God’s work in the lives of NNU students and alums) and enjoy this issue of The Messenger. And may we all continue to form habits of heart, soul, mind and strength that enable each one of us to be a creative and redemptive agent for God.


Joel K. Pearsall, President