Reflections on a Rhythm of Life
Tom and I are now back from our 2 very relaxing days up at Anacortes. Most of my focus has been on regaining the balanced rhythm that I feel is such an important part of my life. My thoughts revolved around this quote from Ian Mobsbey’s book The Becoming of God
A rhythm of life is an innovative way of expressing the Christian faith in the context of contemporary culture.”
In reflecting on this on our last retreat I had written
For me personally, a rhythm of life is a way to establish the practices that I believe will enable me to live into God’s new world of wholeness and abundance. It encourages me to shape my life in a way that is consistent with my understanding of God and God’s kingdom purposes.
This time I found myself needing to get down to the serious business of thinking about the details of what this looks like in my daily life. First I realize that I easily get out of balance and desperately need to protect my Sabbath days as a time to reconnect to God and recommit to how I believe God wants me to be living. Second I realize that I need to constantly filter all that I am asked to do through my understanding of how God wants me to live. If I am getting too busy something is wrong. When I commit to more than I should it is not God’s fault it is mine. For me the key verse is Matthew 11:28 which I particularly love in The Message:
Are you tired? Worn out? burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
This is such a liberating verse for me as it helps me to recognize that God does not want me to kill myself with overwork and stress – something that left to myself I easily allow to happen.
I was reminded of Miroslav Volf’s statement in his book The Spirit of Work that for followers of Christ, the goal of our work is not to to put bread on the table each day but rather to work for the fulfillment of God’s shalomic harmony. Which I think, essentially means that in order to live into God’s world of shalom and wholeness and abundance, our days are meant to reflect God’s rhythms of prayer, work, and rest.
So what does that mean for me? I came out of this retreat with a schedule for my days that reflects something of this rhythm: morning devotions followed by my morning exercises, breakfast then morning prayers in the Mustard Seed House. After that I answer email, write my blog posts and work on my current writing project unless I have some meetings scheduled. After lunch Tom & I take a break to walk the dog. Then, because of my chronic fatigue syndrome I nap for an hour. Afternoon tea is followed by another couple of hours of work, dinner, more work and then evening prayers in the Mustard Seed House at 9 p.m. Now I should hasten to add that “work” covers a multitude of things from writing projects, to meeting with colleagues, networking , reading, photography, working on liturgies and meditation videos, and even working in the garden or providing hospitality for Mustard Seed friends and connections. I love variety in what I do and cannot focus on a single project for more than a couple of hours at a time.
Some of you may think that this sounds very controlled and rigid but in actual fact I find it very liberating and freeing. Establishing firmly in my mind what the pattern of my day should look like gives me the freedom to say no when I am asked to do good things that are not part of God’s plan for me. It also gives me the freedom to let go of unfinished projects and leave them for another day without feeling guilty.
I would to hear how others plan the pattern of their days. I know particularly that for those of us who do not have the discipline of an 8 hour work day that it is easy either to become workaholics or to fritter time away because we lack the discipline to keep at a project.
What do your think that the rhythm of life in the kingdom of God will look like? How do you maintain that rhythm? What keeps you on track and what keeps you from overcommitting and burning out?