The Rhythms of Grace

Last week, I signed my 4-year-old daughter up for her first dance class. !!  I bought tights and leotards, and she’s been wearing them around the house for weeks now. I’m trying to teach her the grande jette. Because, you know, it is always preferable to begin the (beginner, toddler, community center) class from a more advanced perspective than your peers.

Oh, yeah. I’m going to be that mom. Consider yourselves forewarned.

Thing is, while the ‘retired’ dance teacher in me is thrilling at the idea of tiny tutus, the reasonable, rational side of my brain is thinking…this is how it begins. I find myself mentally flashing forward about ten years. To a cascading flow of dance classes; swim lessons; piano via skype with their (by then) grammy-winning uncle; basketball and volleyball practice (since both my kids will outgrow me by the 3rd grade); church youth group activities; band camp; weekend sleepovers; and then, you know, whatever THEY actually want to do. And given the fact that our lives, at this very moment, are pretty full and busy, i find myself wondering; how are we EVER going to find time for it all?

In many ways, i might really be that mom. Because I want my kids to have a chance to try many things, and find what they enjoy and/or seem to be gifted in. (Here’s hoping that the ‘enjoy’ and ‘can sort of do’ overlap, at least some of the time.) But as much as i want my kids to see, do, and practice all of the things that make life full and meaningful, I do not believe in the over-programmed, unsustainable, expensive and exhausting schedules that many of us tend to engage, in an effort to make our kids ‘perform’ better, go farther, and somehow validate us as parents. The “altar of busy-ness” (says Barbara Brown Taylor) has become perhaps the primary false god of our culture. And i blame it, at least in part, for pulling many families out of the faith community: ‘yes, we know Church is important. We are just so busy…”

I’m hoping that, with intention, my husband and i can strike a reasonable balance of supporting and encouraging our kids to explore their gifts, while also maintaining a rhythm of family life that is life-giving and endowed with that great, yet often overlooked gift of childhood–downtime. Precious downtime in which to just BE– at home, with family, in nature–for our children to simply know what it means to be a whole, round, and balanced person in the world. (Dang–my husband. I forgot to add ‘drum lessons’ to that litany of stuff up there…)

In the meantime, I’m resolving to cherish every minute of this time in the life of my family. The kids are big enough to do fun stuff–like go on a road trip, or take a dance class, or eat at a (reasonably) nice restaurant; but not so big as to have demanding social calendars and weekends full of regional whatever competitions. I will enjoy those things in good time, but for now, it is nice to just ‘be’ with my people. I hope that we are setting the rhythm for a graceful pace of living, for all of our years to come. (Note to self: good job for my spouse, the drummer. He’s kind of a rock star).

I’m trying to keep a more graceful pace in other parts of my life, too. As i opened my new church calendar for 2013, I thought of all the wonderful things that we want to do in the life of the church this year, as we discern God’s call to serve our neighbors. And yet, I am rid of the desperate sense of urgency that I felt in my first years of serving this church. While there is always–always–urgency to the gospel (just ask Mark), I no longer get the feeling that my congregation is in ‘survival’ mode, and that everything we do (or do not do) has the potential to make or break us. There’s no longer a frantic energy around my schedule of events and gatherings, and for that I am grateful. After years of prayerful discernment and following the Spirit’s lead, we seem to be in a rhythm of abundance these days. The work of transformation has finally taken root, and it no longer seems that everything has to be an uphill climb. While there is still (much) work to be done here, I feel we can give ourselves permission to breathe through the changes, and let ‘whatever’s next’ come in good time.

Maybe it’s because we have people in the seats, and money in the bank, and additional staff. Or maybe I have finally learned that nothing we can “do” can bring about the work of the kingdom, better than simply showing up and learning how to be fully in the presence of God and community. I thank God for giving me the energy to run around to dance class, and Bible study, and leadership retreats, and hospital visits, and community task forces for whatever, and preschool orientation night, and choir practice, ad infinitum. But I also thank Jesus for teaching me  to simply lay down my own stuff and follow, into a life that cannot be planned, but is always full of 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. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30. The Message

About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...

  • http://www.facebook.com/diane.c.witherspoon Diane C Witherspoon

    Very Good! I remember being there and it does ALL work out – some how some way. Diane

  • http://mamacravings.wordpress.com mamacravings

    My mother was great about allowing each of us 4 kids to be exposed to many sports, music appreciation classes, music lessons, dance lessons, etc. etc. etc. And she was also great at balance. I never felt stressed as a kid with my schedule (though looking back, it was quite stressful). If something wasn’t for us, we completed the season because we made a commitment and discussed it as a family. If something was for us, we ran with it. :)

    • http://www.irreverin.com irreverins

      smart mama :)

  • Ann

    Glad you recognize the need for balance! Be forewarned — ‘all-star’ and ‘traveling teams’ can rob your family of time for camping trips, sleepovers, family reunions, vacations, and other family-bonding experiences, no matter how ‘good’ a particular child is or what the chances for a college scholarship may be! Our son, the amazing stand-out soccer star as a child, burned out on soccer completely by high school and all of us regretted the lost opportunities to do other things as a family.

  • Linda Siegwald

    Erin,

    You are such a wise woman! I couldn’t agree more with all you’ve said in this blog—and I’m so glad you found another opportunity to use “unforced rhythms of grace”. Such a wonderful phrase! As a teacher of the gifted for over 30 years, I’m often asked what parents can do to “help” prepare their little ones to score gifted and be exceptional students. I always tell them to let them have downtime for imaginative play, for observing nature, for playing in a sandbox! It is a far healthier thing than memorizing flashcards. As a parent, I wanted my kids to be well-rounded. We did the sports, the scouts, the church group, and the dance and music lessons. We kept our sanity with two rules: We’d make a concerted effort to all eat dinner together (so no practice or class scheduled during dinner hour) and we would only participate in the 4-month soccer league, not the 9-month one! You are a great mom with great kids. Trust those instincts!

  • Bob

    Yes Erin you are that Mom. I sensed that the first time I met you. The apple does not fall to far from the tree does it?


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