Sunday, May 29, 2016

rhythm, rest, & lessons from my brita pitcher.

I’ve been leading worship for some time now and of all the different aspects of playing and leading a song, tempo and rhythm can be one of the more difficult pieces for me.

Every worship leader has had those times where you’re either struggling to speed the band up or keep them from running away with a song. It’s frustrating and even if everything else is right, if the tempo and rhythm are off, it. Is. Off.

Rhythm is a major theme in my life, and I would argue all lives. Rhythm is in our design and it’s not just for musicians. Yes, friends who can’t clap along with songs, even you, were built with a rhythm.

The rhythm got set at the creation of the world. The Creation story in Genesis is a Hebrew poem. Even the story of God making everything carries a cadence. On the ____ day, God made _____ and it was good. Until day six, when the cadence is similar but hits a climax when people are made and get a “very good.” Then something remarkable happens.

There’s a break in the rhythm. The Trinity rests. God of all time and space who doesn’t need rest, does, to enjoy what They have made and to model the rhythm of rest They designed in us.
Have you ever thought of it that way? Even before the fall, God decided he should model rest and enjoyment because, even then, it would be easy to continue working. He was showing us how it was done and teaching us the value of enjoyment and the importance of rest.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus is making a point about pace and rhythm.

Perhaps you’ve heard the verse, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. … My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I appreciate the paraphrase of “The Message” with this passage.

“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.”

Jesus is using livestock imagery here. When a farmer would get a new work animal like an ox or donkey, he would pair the new, inexperienced animal with a more experienced one. Together, they would share a yoke, pulling the plow together and the older would teach the newer. Without the older animal, the young one would go too fast and burn out quickly, or they might get distracted and never get going. The experienced animal set a good pace and taught the younger a healthy rhythm that made the yoke easy and manageable.

This is what Jesus is talking about in this passage. We don’t have to carry heavy yokes, sprinting or struggling through life. He invites us into an unforced rhythm of grace; a steady, healthy cadence. (I’d recommend Judah Smith’s teaching on this, by the way.)


In recent months, I have discovered how very exhausted I am, frustrated at my inability to keep what I was failing to see as an incredibly high pace paired with even higher expectations.
I was leading a women’s retreat, out for a walk through some camp trails, talking to God. I told him how frustrating it was that I was trying to speak, teach, create worship experiences, walk alongside students, and it felt like I had nothing to give. It was like trying to squeeze water from a rock. And frankly, it made me really mad.

“God, you’ve given me all this to do for your Kingdom. Can ya help a sister out?!”

I got home that evening, thirsty from the day’s traveling. I open the fridge to find the Brita pitcher empty. As I filled it up in the sink and stood there waiting for it to filter down, anger welled up in me.

“This takes FOREVER. I don’t have TIME for this stupid pitcher. I’m thirsty and just WANT A DRINK OF WATER.”

Truth hit my heart like a 2x4.

“Yeah, it does take time to refill. You’re more empty than normal, so it takes even longer. But if you don’t wait and allow me time to fill you up, you’ll have nothing to pour out. Or you’ll try to rush before you’re filled and make a huge mess. Just. Be. Still. I’ll fill you up.”

In that moment, I realized how many lies I had been believing about my life, who I am, and who God is.

-That He’s asked me to keep this pace.
-That He’s expecting me to figure it all out on my own and I better not screw it up.
-That spending time with Him and in His Word was just another thing He wanted from me, instead of healing, watering, and provision for me; time spent with my Good Father.
-That I couldn’t stop my high speed living because if I did, my worth would decrease and I wouldn’t be wanted anymore.
-That my wounds and aches and exhaustion were just my cross to bear, so I better suck it up.

It became very clear that my rhythm needed a reset. I needed some spiritual shock paddles to jolt me back into the rhythm God had written in me.

So often, I see myself and others being victims of our own chaos. We all too easily accept that this is “just the way life is.” Well, it doesn’t have to be.
3DM’s Learning Circle has been a gift to me this past year. It’s an invitation to process what God is saying and it how might change our trajectory into further Gospel freedom and ministry. The circle gave me new eyes to see God’s invitation for me to rest and be filled up, to be intentional about living a healthy rhythm instead of just accepting an unhealthy pace.

In this process, I’ve realized I’ve walked through a lot of big things in the last few years, life transitions, some major ministry challenges, grief, and high life demands, without any real down time to breathe, process, heal, even figure out what’s hurt and what the next new step is. I have been in constant motion for so long trying to stay on top of work life, family and friend commitments, and still do some things that energize and fill me.

So for the past few weeks and the next few, the pace looks different. I’m taking more time and space to rest even more than normal, to actually both survey the damage and celebrate the journey been on, to schedule some doctors’ appointments and write some music. The learning circle has given me the gift of space to listen, reflect, and make a new better choice.

To zoom out and look at my calendar going forward, being intentional about what a healthy weekly and monthly rhythm look like, so I can make informed decisions that don’t empty my pitcher without adequate time to refill it. I desire to live in an unforced rhythm of grace, where my pitcher is regularly refilled and never scraping the bottom to fill someone else’s cup.

It’s time to listen to the rhythm and tempo God has set and follow his lead in keeping the song together.

1 comment:

  1. Shelly,
    What a wonderful reminder that we need to make sure that the urgent does not prevent us from taking time for the truly important things in life. Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom. Sara Groves' song, Expedition, could easily serve as the soundtrack to this post.
    May God continue to bless your ministry, Kathy Haeg