Rhythms. We need rhythms. Rhythms anchor us, center us, keep us in touch with what has happened, what is happening, and what is yet to happen. A rhythm may move slowly at points, and more frenetically at others, but the cadence gives order to it. Breathing is a rhythm. Life happens in rhythm.
But whose rhythms are we living in step with? Often, my rhythm is set by the events of my day. On a larger scale, the cadence of my yearly calendar is structured by my activity. There are long stretches of work and writing and travel, then a few stretches of vacations and breaks, then more flurry of activity for our kids and the things they are involved in. These are all good things. But do I want my life to follow the rhythm of my activity?
Sacred rhythms keep us in line with the Spirit's work. They provide us with the space to listen, to look, to learn. While my calendar is shaped by my activity, the historic Church calendar is ordered by Christ's life and the Spirit's activity. The year is shaped by His birth, His revealing, His suffering, His death, His resurrection, His gift of the Spirit. I am learning to embrace the sacred rhythm of the Church Calendar to root my life, to ground my work, to keep me in a Groove much larger than my own self-centered world.
The Church, of course, is not the first to recognize the value of sacred rhythms. They were following in the footsteps (rhythms!) of their Jewish forefathers, who had feast days and festivals and fasts that were given to them by God while they were still in the wilderness. Think of it: a wandering people with no home yet, no real routines or sense of place...and God gave them a rhythm to live in, a rhythm that would help them worship, and repent, and remember.
But a rhythm doesn't just help us pay attention to God, it also reminds us that we are not alone. When we participate in a celebration of Christmas or Easter or in the humbling repentance of Lent, we are joining with all who have gone before us. We are walking a well-worn path. We are discarding the arrogance of independence, the pride of "doing it my way", and humbly joining a chorus of saints.
Whatever you choose to give up for Lent...
May it be a time to lower ourselves together before the foot of the cross. May we remember Christ and His suffering and offer our humble thanks. May we be attentive to the Spirit and His work in us as He prunes and convicts and refines. May God give us the grace to respond quickly and humbly to His mercy.
As we keep company with Christ in this Lenten season, may we hear again His words:
"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." (Matt. 11:28, Message)
[For a brief sketch of the history and purpose of Lent, you can read the blog I wrote last year called, "Why I'm Observing Lent this Year."]