I like to run. I’m no avid runner but I do enjoy it. And when I head out towards Pacific Spirit Park, there’s one piece of 21st-century running gear I won’t survive without: earbuds. I’m not the only one, either: everyone runs (and walks, even) with earbuds these days!
Why is this the case?
For running, at least, I think it’s all about the beat. The bass. The rhythm. Because there’s something simply wonderful when my stride falls right into rhythm with the musical rhythm bumping in my ears. I still feel my burning lungs and aching legs — but when they’re in rhythm, it’s not so painful. Things click; I can look beyond the discomfort and enjoy the otherwise painful experience. I feel free.
Whether it’s running or something else entirely different, like baking or playing video games, I think we all know the satisfying experience of falling into rhythm. There’s enough predictability to keep us grounded and enough change to keep us captivated. There’s direction and motion; there’s a feeling of rightness to a rhythm. There’s a groove.
Now, here’s a thought. When it comes to our lives following Jesus, we desperately need rhythm. A groove.
Life pulls us in so many directions. The parties vying for our time, attention, money, and love are endless. Most days we don’t pause long enough to consider it, so let’s take a moment and do so. How do you navigate the war zone for your attention? Your time? Your money? Your love? What do you prioritize? Which people, projects, issues, hobbies, and questions matter? Which ones don’t? And, most importantly: how do you decide?
When we set out on the journey following Jesus Christ, we have not chosen an easy life. But we have chosen to follow a King who answers these questions for us. This King says to us, stop worrying about all of the things that the world tells you to worry about – where you live, what you will eat, and what clothes you will wear! Seek the Kingdom of God and learn what it means to be righteous, and all of your needs will be met (Matthew 6:33-34). When we decide to follow Jesus, we release our right to set our priorities and adopted a different set of values – values that belong to a Kingdom beyond this world.
But it’s not always so clear, is it?
Like running to the rhythm of music, we need the rhythm of the gospel setting the groove for our lives.
Even when we know our goal is to walk with Christ and be formed into his image, we still make endless decisions that lead us towards a different set of values. We still act out of self-focused fear instead of committed trust; we still pursue the goals in life that our culture insists will bring happiness and trample underfoot the values of God’s Kingdom. I certainly do. What can be done about it?
Like running to the rhythm of music, we need the rhythm of the gospel setting the groove for our lives. We need a gospel-centered rhythm of life. A rhythm of life is a guide. Crafting one is like constructing signposts along the path of life to help you intentionally journey towards Jesus Christ, with others.
I’m not talking about a plan or formula for earning your salvation or sanctification. God is the one leading us towards his Kingdom and transforming us into his image. But he has invited us to participate with him in this work (Phil 2:12-13)! As Dallas Willard puts it:
“The path of spiritual growth in the riches of Christ is not a passive one. Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning. Effort is action. Earning is attitude.”
So we need rhythms. We need a groove to guide our steps on the path towards Christlikeness, and not on the other dead-end paths of meaning and purpose on display in our world. Rhythms are not inflexible, like a set of rules or a jelly mold. They are fluid; they move and bend and flow with the seasons of life and the particularities of personhood. They are not a rigid grid that we impose upon our lives. But they do carry us forward towards an end – towards Christ.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll explore the four rhythms of life: Up, In, Out, and With. We’ve identified and named these rhythms because they are essential steps that Scripture identifies in our journey following Jesus Christ as a community. Naming and exploring them will help follow Jesus, and when we get out of sync, they will help us find us get back into our groove with the Spirit.
Don’t worry. We’ll take it slow, and we’ll do it together. When Jesus began the work of transformation in you, he promised to complete it (Phil 1.6). He will, and we will arrive on eternity’s shores together. But for today, and tomorrow, and the next day, let’s find a rhythm together. Let’s listen for the beat of the Spirit and journey towards Jesus together, one step at a time.