The gift of rhythm

I’m not talking about whether or not you can play drums (though I ‘gotta tell you – they’re really fun).  I’m talking about God’s gift to all of us, which is the various rhythms built into the cosmos, and into our bodies.  There are many:

1. The rhythm of the seasons. The days are palpably shorter.  Pre-season football has started, and the blueberries are ripe on the lower reaches of the high country.  The land is ripe, and this ripeness will soon give way to the harvest of autumn, and then the rest of autumn, as darkness overshadows light and invites us inward, to rest.

2. The rhythm of the day.  Darkness gives way to light, and for many of us, this is a call to move into the fulness of activity.  We’ll reach some sort of physical peak in the afternoon, and then begin to wind down again in the evening, as the darkness returns to invite rest.

3. The rhythm of hunger and eating.  I’m noticing that when I snack less, I feel better, noticing that if I stop working while I eat, and instead use the time to relax and thoroughly enjoy my food, I feel better.

4. The rhythm of Sabbath rest.  We’re called to the gift of work, but we’re also called to the gift of rest.

There are others as well.  You’ve heard of biorhythms?  You’ve heard about “a time for everything” in Ecclesiastes 3?  The world is filled with rhythms of engagement and withdrawal, conflict and resolution, longing and fulfillment, activity and rest, joy and mourning.  Surely, this is a gift of God.

We mess with these rhythms at our peril, and oh do we mess with them!  Sometimes I’m not even hungry at mealtime because I’ve been snacking so much.  Sometimes I can’t get to sleep in the evening because I’ve been working and exercising right up until the moment I need to go to bed.  This leads to a sleep shortage, which leads to an uptick in caffeine, which leads to me feeling like some sort of deity around 10 in the morning, but some sort of blob of unresponsive tissue around 3 in the afternoon, especially if my lunch was laden with carbs.

As I get older, my body tolerates the violation of these rhythms less and less, and so I’m finding myself more and more committed to some simple principles for staying with the rhythms:

1. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

2. Only eat when hungry

3. take a break from the desk during each section of the day and do something active, if only for a few minutes

4. start the day early enough to have coffee with God

5. take a day off, each week, from writing, studying, and leading my church.

These priorities, which have become more necessary as i’ve gotten older, leave me feeling so much more ‘integrated’ that I’m asking myself, “why didn’t I do these things a lot earlier in life?”  I can’t turn back the clock, but I can surely share them with you.

One final word.  I know that lots of these things aren’t possible for many, many people in the world.  Some professions demand working through the night.  Some people in poverty, don’t have the luxury of days off, are ven eating whole foods.  It’s a broken world, and there are many who are far, far, from any sort of shalom.

However, this is a big reason for paying attention to God’s rhythms.  I’m convinced that if I walk according to those rhythms (which requires some discipline), I’ll have more strength to serve and be a blessing in this world.  I recently faced a few days when, both because of my schedule and my choices, I was violating all these principles, and the results weren’t pretty. I felt like I was in an x-box game, with lots of stuff coming at me, and me doing nothing more than reacting.

I’m back in the rhythm now, and the difference is big!

What rhythm energizes you the most when you’re “in it”?  Sleeping/Waking;  Exercise/Rest;  Socializing/Solitude?

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • http://joballistic.tumblr.com/ Joanna

    I couldn’t agree more. I consistenly ignore my rhythms. Often I find I’m spreading myself too thin in an effort to please everyone. Almost always, I end up feeling like, I too, am “in an x-box game.” But I do find the rhythms that energize me most are exercise/rest and socializing/solitude. I find the solitude part one of the most challenging to practice. Especially in our go-go-do-see-think society. The feeling and pressure I give into, to do and be all things, often overwhelms me so much, even when I’m in solitude, I’m not really being recharged like I need to be. I’m learning this discipline, slowly but surely.

  • http://joballistic.tumblr.com/ Joanna

    I couldn’t agree more. I consistenly ignore my rhythms. Often I find I’m spreading myself too thin in an effort to please everyone. Almost always, I end up feeling like, I too, am “in an x-box game.” But I do find the rhythms that energize me most are exercise/rest and socializing/solitude. I find the solitude part one of the most challenging to practice. Especially in our go-go-do-see-think society. The feeling and pressure I give into, to do and be all things, often overwhelms me so much, even when I’m in solitude, I’m not really being recharged like I need to be. I’m learning this discipline, slowly but surely.

  • Deborah Ferguson

    I’m blessed to have a life where I can pace my days so as to balance errands and home time, service with my hobbies, socializing with alone time, useful activity with down time, etc. The reasons for this are varied and some didn’t have much to do with me, but often I’ve made a choice to simplify and not get sucked into our culture’s “be busy” mentality.

  • Deborah Ferguson

    I’m blessed to have a life where I can pace my days so as to balance errands and home time, service with my hobbies, socializing with alone time, useful activity with down time, etc. The reasons for this are varied and some didn’t have much to do with me, but often I’ve made a choice to simplify and not get sucked into our culture’s “be busy” mentality.


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