Where we’ve been
This Fall is all about learning to practice the unforced rhythms of grace that align us with the movement of God’s Kingdom for the sake of the world. During our first week together, Aaron described God’s Kingdom through the picture of a powerful, slow moving river, flowing throughout history towards the restoration and redemption of all things. The invitation to learn the unforced rhythms of grace is beautifully summed up in this image – by learning to practice rhythms that connect and draw us towards this river, we can learn to swim with the current and let it carry us toward God’s making all things new through his redeeming of the world.
Some of you may be thinking, “So what are these rhythms that draw us towards the Kingdom of God?” Well that is what the rest of our Rhythms series is all about. We want to teach and practice rhythms together that align each moment, each day, each week, and each year with the flow of God’s Kingdom. Over the next 3 months we’re going to learn how to practice the rhythms of moment by moment silence, daily Examen, weekly Sabbath, and the annual church calendar.
It is our hope that through these practices that connect and draw us to the movement of God’s Kingdom in the world, you would learn to swim with and be carried by God’s current of grace and love to flow with the river towards the restoration of all things.
Last night began the start of our two week exploration into the rhythm of silence. Many of you heard me share with the room that I could not be more excited that Shauna Niequist was the one to lead us into silence (partly because being in Shauna’s presence doesn’t necessarily evoke silence in me!) but more importantly because Shauna has a gift, through both her writing and her speaking, that makes you feel like you are speaking tenderly with your best friend or sister as you discuss difficult and painful topics with a sense that you are safe and that there is hope for change.
You can listen to Shauna’s message and share in our practice of silence through our latest podcast, or by listening here below.
Shauna held up her own experience of living a life without silence, as an important model of what not to do and as a cautionary tale of what a life lived in fear of silence will reap in your life. As always, I was struck by her honesty, insight and profound humility. As she read and described her life so openly, I was undone by her courage.
Could any of you relate to the picture Shauna painted? I sorely did.
Shauna spoke of how we as Christian’s will often wreck ourselves in pursuit of building the Kingdom of God and in pursuit of the Christian life. She spoke of a year in which she traveled over 40 times to make speaking engagements at conferences, churches, and colleges. She spoke of a year in which she ran hard, to the point of great success, yet to the point of physical, emotional and spiritual burn out. Many of us have bought into the idea, that if our work produces ‘fruit’ then it must be God’s will, no matter what it costs us, our bodies or our families. If running ourselves ragged produces ‘fruit’ in the lives of others, we will often overlook that raggedness, believing that surely if it was successful, then it was good, necessary and blessed by God to continue thriving in this way.
How challenging to consider that if your very self is not included in the Kingdom you serve, then your ministry is not thriving.
For me, this was where Shauna’s words really hit home. For so many of us, we often justify the noise and pace at which we live by assessing does it produce fruit in the life of others – never pausing to ask is it also producing fruit in our own lives. As well intentioned Christians, we often offer up our body, our health and our lives for the sake of others in the name of God. Now by no means, was Shauna’s message an invitation to become selfish or inward focused, rather – it felt like freedom. Freedom to accept the gift of our human limitations, the smallness of our capacity and the reality that it does no good to gain the whole world, if in the process we loose our very soul.
Matthew 16:26 begs the question, “Is anything worth more than your soul?”
The answer of course, is an emphatic no. Shauna beautifully surmised that at the end of the day, despite what the world or even the church may have us believe, we are limited. She eloquently shared that despite what others may expect of her, she is not a firehose of constant work, energy and endless self giving. Rather, she is a small and steady steam. Trickling cool and clear into the world to give what only she can give, in the measure that protects her soul, because her soul is also part of the Kingdom God is trying to build.
Friends, have you believed the lie that you are unlimited? That you have to press harder, faster, stronger to live out God’s calling in your life? If the outside of your cup is clean, yet the inside is exhausted and burned out, then we have sorely missed the point. It is God’s heart for you that you would fight the rat race of this age. Fight the urge to burn yourself out to reach just one more goal.
It is here – in this gentle realization that we are profoundly limited – that silence gets to enter in.
It is in practicing a rhythm of silence, that we come face to face with our Maker and finally reduce the noise and societal goading long enough to hear His still small voice. It is through realizing that at any moment you can take a moment of silence, that we begin to unmake the mess we get ourselves into when we wreck ourselves in the name of success and productivity. Silence is a gift. A profound gift, that unravels and reveals us in the presence of God.
May Shauna’s cautionary tale convict and encourage you into a rhythm of silence. May you realize in your heart of hearts that you too are part of God’s Kingdom, and caring for yourself is as important to God as the list of demands for your time and service.
Stay with us on the journey friends, through learning these rhythms that draw us toward God’s Kingdom, we can swim with the current, and be carried by love and grace toward God making all things new (newsflash – that includes you too).
Jenna Perrine & The Practice Tribe