I recently earned a speeding ticket. There is a long stretch of road work outside my neighborhood that requires a limit of 35 miles-per-hour, and I was over the limit. It seems this has become a primary theme for me lately: slow down. But I have plans, you see, and slowing down just does not factor into those plans. And they are good plans, too… like the plan to use my husband’s absence for eight days to get a lot accomplished in writing the new “Journey with Jesus” curriculum. My plan didn’t progress the way I intended, so I grew impatient and frustrated by the limits that settled upon me. Apparently, God had other plans for me, and He had not asked for my opinion on the matter.
I was taking a morning walk when I first felt the Spirit whispering to me, “unforced rhythms of grace”. My heart, mind, and spirit lightened immediately. Unforced rhythms of grace. It soothed me, comforted me, and strengthened me. And so my patient Father has begun to bring the cadence of this new, unforced rhythm into my inner being. This phrase comes from the Message Bible’s version of Matthew 11:28-30: “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.”
Isn’t that breathtakingly beautiful? It seems that God is wanting me to discover what it means to slow down enough to actually enjoy my work, rather than feeling the burden to accomplish. I sense God saying that I am going to walk with Jesus, and work with Him, and watch how He works. As I learn from Him, I will be able to be productive in a new way; not in the old way of performance that must be graded. No, Jesus is going to teach me the way to work and live “freely and lightly”. I have to slow down enough to take a deep soul-breath, and be willing to live from my heart and spirit, rather than my head.
For the past twelve years or so, God has been teaching me about self-discipline. He has taught me to order my life, to set goals, and to make a plan so that I can actually accomplish those goals. That discipline has helped me create the kind of home environment I desire, the kind of spiritual walk with God I desire, and to slowly but surely lighten my body and make it stronger and healthier. This teaching of discipline has been heightened through times God called me to fast. As you fast, you learn that you really CAN live without that thing you think you must have. You learn that discipline is far more about what is going on in your mind and thoughts than in your body. God has taught me a great deal through goal-setting, proper planning, and the discipline of choosing to endure the discomfort rather than giving in to what is easy. We can always go back to easy with one small decision. We cannot, however, return to that hard place of growth, stretching, and accomplishment without great and extended effort. Growth will always require us to leave ‘easy’ and ‘comfortable’, and remain with God in the wilderness of training.
As God is moving me into this new season of growth and learning, however, He is asking me to see the goal, but allow Him to make the plan. I am learning the joy and discomfort of watching God reveal the plan as we go. God is asking me to lay aside my comfortable dependence of making a plan, and peacefully walk with Him as He unfolds the plan one day at a time. I am learning not to allow a task to consume me. I can easily become driven by working to a self-prescribed finish line each day. I am no longer allowed to set the pace; instead, I must keep in step with the Spirit. I am no longer allowed to determine the amount of work that is enough in any particular area; He is helping me become aware of my limits, and not push past them. In other words, this is not self-discipline as I have known it. This becomes the discipline of dependence on the Spirit.
God has reminded me that He was quite willing to create our world in (relatively) small segments, rather than accomplishing the whole of it in one fell swoop. For instance, God was contented to create light on the first day… and nothing else. No sun, moon or stars; just light. His work was done for the day; it was good, and it was enough. God was in no rush to complete creation, although He could have. Each day’s work left creation incomplete, but it was good, and it was enough. God placed limits on what He would do each day, and He was contented to rest with the incomplete- but good– work.
God is teaching me that today’s work will not necessarily complete the goals I might have, but when the Spirit leads, it will be good, and it will be enough. I have to learn to slow down, to live within the limits God teaches me, and enjoy the moments as I actually live them. As I walk with Jesus, and study His life, I am learning the unforced rhythms of grace. As I slow down, I am learning to live more freely and more lightly. He, no longer I, sets the limits.