Life has rhythms. Learning to go with these rhythms was how Jesus organized His life.
Jesus criticized His opponents in this area once by saying, “You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Luke 12:56). Jesus’ words have modern-day application too.
Here’s a hard saying: The modern church has lost its mind. 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us we’ve been given the mind of Christ. How do we return to accessing His mind? I’m not proud to say that when I’ve been at my worst, I didn’t follow the leading of the Spirit because I was too glued to the schedule I made up. Maybe you can relate.
Going with the Natural Rhythms of Life
There are rhythms to how we live—eating, working, celebrating, resting, and playing. There are others relating to how we share Jesus—listening to another’s story and finding ways to bless them accordingly are examples. As far as church organization goes, this is why our church family isn’t centered on programs. The program is life, and the role of church leadership is to provide minimal structure to ensure people people can engage in life like Jesus. I’ve been learning this in a personal way too.
In a recent blog, I shared how our family moved to Tennessee after a season of hardship. Since living here, it’s been a challenge to recognize life’s rhythms for myself. For instance, I resist my tiredness when I need to rest, and I organize my schedule around what I’d like to see happen, instead of what is actually happening.
On my property in Tennessee, I’ve made a series of trails. During my work day, I sometimes walk these trails talking to my coaching clients. In my free time, I enjoy building new ones. Recently, I zig-zagged up a different side of the ridge imagining where I’d put a new trail for mountain biking. As I stood looking at a natural feature, it occurred to me how hard it would be to remove a small hill that stood in my way. While I imagined possibly making a trail over this hill something came to me: Accepting what’s natural has enormous implications for the discipleship life. I’m not proud to say there were times during my paid pastoral years where I didn’t accept that life had a rhythm. In other words, I didn’t accept where people were at. I pushed and prodded them to get with my program. Rarely did this result in anything positive for them (or me).
Imagine how things might change if you’d listen to your body when it was tired. Rest is a rhythm. Imagine how things would change if (for instance) during football season you recognized that’s where people were already at, so you joined them in the rhythm of playing. Or during the holiday season when people are having parties, what if we simply entered in to the rhythm of celebration with them? Once during the month of December, our missional community threw parties for the neighborhood—that was all we did together, and it was awesome. These are examples of what we mean when we say “entering into the natural rhythms of life.” This is hard to do if you’ve got another schedule to compete with. Why not drop the schedule and re-schedule around life’s rhythms?
Meeting People Where They’re At
In an interview from 2013, Eugene Peterson was asked what he’d tell someone seeking to pastor people. To this he replied, “As a pastor, you’ve got to be willing to take people as they are. And live with them where they are. And not impose your will on them. Because God has different ways of being with people, and you don’t always know what they are.” Leading and shepherding people, said Peterson, “is a very ordinary way to live.”
In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that “birds and lilies are an example for the followers of Christ. ‘Man-in-revolt’ imagines that there is a relation of cause and effect. . . .” But Jesus instead speaks “of the carefree simplicity of the man who walks with him and accepts everything as it comes from God” (p. 179).
Imagine how your personal and community life would change if you accepted the rhythms already playing out before you. How would that affect your eating, celebrating, resting, and playing?
Here are a few questions for you to think about to help you own this personally and as a community.
- Personally, what life season are you in right now? What’s one thing you need to take out that goes contrary to that season? What ought you put in its place? (Example: Parents with small kids don’t have much time for dates. You might take a TV show out of your routine and put in place a babysitter and go out somewhere together).
- Corporately, talk with your missional community or small group about what season of life they are in. Listen for the themes. What’s one way you could share that season together? (Example: Families with kids in school have similar events they have to attend. Consider making space before or after the event to share a meal. You might even find a way to attend the event together.)
- In the area you’re group is seeking to serve, what rhythms naturally happen during your upcoming season? How could you join in with what’s already happening and be a blessing?
Hear Jesus’ words as good news: “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.” Matthew 11:28–30 (MSG)
There are natural rhythms in life. Instead of fighting against them, why not try working with them?
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