I’m rhythmically impaired. I stumbled (literally) on this fact in Navy Boot Camp. Marching was the approved way to move large groups of clueless recruits from barracks to mess hall to classroom and back. But marching was a battle for me. I strode left when the cadence called right. My head bobbed up when everyone else dipped down. I constantly skipped and hopped to readjust my pace.
“Scott, give me 20!” my Company Commander yelled as if pushups would cure me.
We’re All Rhythmically Impaired
I’m not implying you can’t march. Though why you would, I’m not sure. I’m speaking metaphorically.
As in, we’re all out of rhythm with God. God-rhythm-impaired. Burned out on life and religion!
Even Paul the Apostle complained, “I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. . . . Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (Romans 7:19-21 The Msg)
Sound familiar? Anyone who is honest would admit the same. Generations of Christians have strived to love their neighbor, resist racism, deny the allure of power, or just trust God and not worry. To little avail.
As C. S. Lewis said, “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.”
We slide along a spectrum between idiosyncrasy and synchronicity, radical individualism and conformity.
Some claim to be marching to their own drummer. That there is no universal God-rhythm. This is my default. I’m a Seven on the Enneagram!
Some legalistically thump themselves and others for our inability to match God’s cadence. And try harder.
These amount to self-justification and echo empty to our rhythm starved souls. And neither come close to God’s metronome for our lives. Therefore, we burn out on life and religion.
Individuality Nor Conformity
God has an ironic sense of humor. Marching was the Navy’s main way of stripping us “raisins” of our individualty. Not only am I physically incapable of marching, I have always resisted the concordant drum beat. From head to heart I was not Navy material. My individuality has been my crux and cross.
In one of my seminary classes, I had taken a personality sorter called the 16PF. Studying my results over my shoulder my professor, Dr. Arch Hart said, “You’ve had trouble in the church, haven’t you?”
“Yes. Why do you say that?”
“Your score in creativity is high. The church doesn’t like creative people.”
“Tell me about it!” I was worn out with trying to conform or have other people validate my unique giftedness.
The Beat Goes On
That’s probably why God used a worship service centered on a drum set to teach me the truth about his rhythm and mine. It was at a church plant in Los Angeles. The worship leader had played drums for the first Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. In the center of the livingroom/sanctuary sat his drum set. Around the edges stood tattered couches and overstuffed chairs. A greeter gave me a home-made shaker, a small tape covered box filled with beans or rocks or something percussive inside. I hesitated, shook it, and laughed. Everyone held something similar. My worst nightmare! There was no back row. I plopped on a couch and the drum beat and Gregorian chanting began.
I felt immediately exposed and uncomfortable. Off beat!
I sat back; tried to blend in.
Soon the rhythm of the drum reverberated like a heart pounding out life. It thrummed through me. Assured me. Moved me. It became God’s heartbeat. I heard in it an assurance from God that my uniqueness came from God and I did not need to carry it like a battle flag or melt into the Collective.
My rhythm could be antiphonal to his. It could be an artistic or architectural rhythm, alternating, random (like snow fall), but it corresponds.
I understood that each of our hearts beat uniquely to its own God-designed circadian throb, but all hearts find rhythm with God’s heart when we draw near to him.
The Unforced Rhythms of Grace
This is basically what Jesus invites us to. “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.” ( Mt 11:28-30, The Msg)
Let Jesus’ Grace Set Your Pace
Notice this is not a command for conformity the way so many understand Christianity. Nor is it freedom to flit butterfly-like in desperate search of sweet affirmation. It’s offering yourself to Jesus and walking with him. He’s the one who knows you soul deep. In him you recover your own lost pace.
Listening to the Gospels I’ve noticed Jesus moved in accordance with the Father’s heartbeat. He strode beaches, befriended the friendless, climbed mountains, hung out with kids, ignored establishment expectations, walked everywhere, told off-kilter stories, rarely hurried, napped in stormy boats, never attended a board meeting, and frequented parties. Jesus harmonized with heaven’s rhythm, with God’s design for life. Jesus brought kingdom rhythms to earth. Now he’s offering them to us.
For Lent shall we learn some unforced rhythms of grace?
Lenten Fast: Restrict your media intake
- Make room for Jesus’ rhythm
- Turn off the news
- Limit social media
Lenten Feast: Come away with Jesus
- Listen to the Gospels on audio Bible
- Listen to your favorite spiritual music
- Feast on silence
Lord, as we embark on this Lenten Journey, comfort and challenge us. Help us move and live in your rhythm. Bring Scripture to life. Give us grace. Amen