The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

All God’s children got rhythm, but River’s rhythm is multi-faceted. When our two-year-old grandson starts to shake, rattle, and roll, watch out! He can dance you into the ground, just like King David, who “danced before the Lord with all his might” in front of the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:14).

But that’s not all. When River’s nine-year-old big brother, Ezra, was two, the rhythm of his gastrointestinal system was a beauty to behold as well. One day he swallowed an acorn (mea culpa!), and Ezra’s digestive rhythms broke it down and spit it out the other end the very next morning. Both Ezra and River continually remind their parents that they are much healthier and happier when they eat and sleep at the same time every day and aren’t distracted from their natural body rhythms by grandparents who want to play.

All God’s chillun got rhythm, all God’s chillun got swing
Maybe haven’t got money, maybe haven’t got shoes
All God’s chillun got rhythm for to push away their blues[i]

All God’s children got rhythm, which is particularly noticeable when we get out of our sleep cycle. All living creatures have a circadian rhythm, which is an approximately twenty-four-hour cycle in the biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes of humans, plants, and animals. This rhythm expresses itself through the seasons of the year, cycles of light and dark, feeding patterns, and the timing of migration, hibernation, and reproduction.

Studies have even shown that human beings have a “clock gene,” specific varieties of which result in altered circadian rhythms. Early bird or night owl? You may not be able to significantly change your internal rhythms, so listen to your body, learn when you are most productive and when you need to call it a day, and act accordingly.

One of the silliest things I read one time was from a Christian counselor offering advice about happy marriages. He said that in order for a marriage to be healthy, both husband and wife need to go to bed at the same time. I can’t think of a more unhealthy suggestion! Asking couples to deny their unique body rhythms makes for the blues rather than happiness.

I got a frown, you got a frown, All God’s chillun got a frown on their face;
Take no chance with that frown, A song and a dance, turn it upside downAll God’s children got rhythm, especially jet lag. I’m the jet lag queen. My body rhythms have always been very regular – early to bed and early to rise – so when I fly abroad, my body gets out of whack, which means trouble. I can’t sleep sitting up, so I’m doing a song and dance all night, watching one in-flight movie after another to pass the time. When we finally arrive at our destination, the time change has my body so confused that I can’t readily adjust to new daily rhythms. And then, as soon as I’ve adapted to the time change, it’s time to go home and I have to readjust once again.

Eleven days ago, I returned home from leading a trip to Israel and could not regain my natural sleep rhythm. For the first five days, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I admit to being a morning person, but this was ridiculous. You can sure get a lot of work done before the rest of the world wakes, but by late afternoon I was toast. It took nine days to return to my natural sleep rhythm.

All God’s chillun got trouble, troubles do-on’t mean a thingWhen they start to go ho-ho-ho; The old troubles bound to go ‘way, say All God’s chillun got swing

All God’s children got rhythm, even bishops! But our rhythm is very different from than of a local church pastor. My life used to revolve around the weekly rhythm of sermon preparation, pastoral care, and seasonal changes of the Christian year. Now I follow the rhythm of cabinet meetings, committee meetings, supervisory meetings, staff meetings, denominational meetings, appointment-making, and annual conference. The dates of every major Christian holiday used to be etched in my memory. Now I’m not even sure when Easter is!

Could it be that underneath all of the various rhythms that govern our daily lives, there is the steady rhythm of God’s heartbeat, calling us and our world to a new way of living and being? Could it be that when we’re feeling out of synch, when we can’t swing, sing, and dance, or when we feel the blues, it’s because we’ve become disconnected from the movement of God in our lives?

“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.” Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

Maybe haven’t got money or maybe haven’t got shoes
All God’s chillun got rhythm for to push, for to push
For to push away their blues
 

The unforced rhythm of grace: ah, there’s the sweet spot! I am convinced that an insistent yet unforced rhythm of grace grounded John Wesley in his faith and life. That rhythm of grace was Wesley’s gift to us, and it is our gift to the world.

  • It’s the rhythm of prevenient grace, repentance, justification, assurance, and sanctification
  • It’s the rhythm of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience
  • It’s the rhythm of works of piety (prayer, fasting, worship, the sacraments, spiritual friendship, and accountability) and works of mercy (ministering to the needs of others)
  • It’s the rhythm of “doing all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can”
  • It’s the rhythm of believing that the entire world is your concern, not just your small corner of it
  • It’s the rhythm of engaging in public witness in order to transform our schools, communities, and planet
  • It’s the rhythm of pushing away the blues by letting your light shine into a dark world

All God’s children got rhythm, including you! How will you keep company with Jesus this week, claim the unforced rhythms of grace, and learn how to live freely and lightly?

[i] P.S. “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” was written for the Marx Brothers’ 1937 film A Day at the Races and was made famous by Judy Garland. The songwriters were surely familiar with the Negro Spiritual “All God’s Chillun Got Wings,” which encouraged slaves who worked in the field and their children by promising rewards in heaven.

4 thoughts on “The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

  1. Jet lag is the pits but as you said, one does survive. Thank goodness our
    mission trip to Cuba only is a one hour difference.

  2. I appreciate your blog so much. Thanks for using and sharing your creative writing ability. I can relate to today’s blog as I returned yesterday from Bali. My nephew got married to a lovely Indonesian woman. Hmmmm…now how many time zones DID I cross?? Ha. Jet lag supreme!!!

  3. I can relate with the early to bed early to rise. As far as not really knowing when Easter is…..what a joy it is to at least have Christmas the same date every year! Our own individual rhythms are blessings. When some are praising, praying, and loving, others are resting so they will have their turn to do the same. And the cycle goes on. God is wonderful!

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