As I’ve been thinking about the pace of my life and the direction (or lack of direction) I have been feeling, I have started to think about faithfulness to Jesus in terms of tempo and the willingness to slow mine down. I am having to learn some patience and willingness not to know everything about my life. I’m learning to view the rhythm of my life in ways that are more healthy, a lot like I have also been approaching my food in ways that are more healthy.
Some of those thoughts have led me to think about the merits of a good meal. I find that following Jesus is a lot more like sitting down to a meal than it is, for instance, like refueling a car. First of all, I don’t know anyone who wants to fill up their car with gas. No one likes paying for gas. No one likes the inconvenience of stopping at the gas station. Since refueling is something we only do because we absolutely have to (the car mysteriously stops running if we put it off too long), we get it over as quickly and painlessly as possible so that we can move on to other things.
While I hate putting gas in the car, I know I enjoy some good food. Even more, I love sharing good food with other people and adding an appetizer, delicious entrées, cold and/or hot drinks, and a dessert to the experience. Paired with good company and good conversation, the best meals often take hours. I find the time and expense to be well worth it.
Sometimes, I need to take a break from work and errands, homework and responsibilities, and put in the time and the presence needed to enjoy my meals and my relationships. The hurry to get things done and the drive to accomplish or the compulsion to have a plan of action simply burn up fuel, which leads me to try to refuel in various ways. Sometimes I do that by playing video games or by reading or even by more spiritual things like praying or reading scripture. Yet the problem lies in the constant consumption of the fuel in my tank and the point of the pit stop is simply to allow me to continue my frenzied pace and scattered direction.
I think a better way lies in not just filling up with gas to put in more miles but in chewing my food. I select what I eat because it is delicious and brings me health (or because it is so delicious that it doesn’t have to be healthy!). The benefit is in the experience. I need the vitamins and minerals, carbs and fats, proteins and other nutrients, and being wise about what I eat contributes to the overall quality of my life. But at the same time, eating is its own reward in a way that filling my car with gas can never come close to sharing. Even more, eating is made far better when it is shared with special people and the relationships are enriched by the meal we share together.
These concepts ring just as true, maybe even more true, with regard to the parts of my life that are particularly spiritual in nature. I could always be focused on keeping busy for God and only stopping long enough to refuel and get back in the game. But where is the beauty of relationship? Where do I find the time to love Jesus and experience more of him?
Sometimes, when it comes to the Christian life, I need to take a break from the melee of obedience, and pause to dine with Jesus. The rhythm of my life is slowing, and rather than fight it and try to rush (which makes everything sound all wrong), I need to keep pace with the Conductor and learn to keep the beat in this movement of the song.
A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with Aaron that led to summarizing the pursuit of a life characterized by the Spirit and relationship with Jesus along with obedience to the Father as being two sides of a coin: immersion and obedience. We have to pursue both for either to progress, but they inform each other. Deep relationship with Jesus, prayer, meditation, study: these all lead to knowing God better and understanding more clearly how to be faithful. Actively making choices and doing the things God calls us to do allow us to see God better and enables us to enter deeper relationship.
Right now, as I embrace new changes in obedience to God’s call, I look forward to pausing to dine with Jesus. It is hard for me to slow down in my pursuit of long-term goals and constant advancement, but the more I contemplate and let myself hear the Holy Spirit, the more clearly I understand that the spiritual rhythms of living with a household of faithful people and taking the time to develop my own steps to those rhythms is essential.
Stepping into life with the Portland Jeremiah House is sitting down to dinner with Christ, and I can’t wait to see where the conversation takes us.
The song we hear is ancient and beautiful, and the melody is familiar across history and across the globe. The harmonies shift and change and remind us of things we know well and surprise us in ways we never expected. The rhythm remains constant yet is subtle and sweet so that the dance must always adjust in new ways.
My understanding of who Jesus is and who I am grows deeper. The truth of God’s revelation remains stable. Each season of my life calls me to integrate all these things in different ways so that while some times may require urgent action, other times sit best with quiet expectation. Right now, I hear the music slow and am learning how not to trip over my own feet as I match the pace and enjoy where God is guiding me until the next season begins.