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Find your rhythm

For most of my life I assumed that people went at the same pace I did. Stupid assumption. For some reason, I’ve got the capacity to go and go when most people need more rest. If I get a good 6 1/2 hours sleep, then I’m off like a shot the next morning. And if there’s a crisis, I don’t freak out. …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
For most of my life I assumed that people went at the same pace I did. Stupid assumption. For some reason, I’ve got the capacity to go and go when most people need more rest. If I get a good 6 1/2 hours sleep, then I’m off like a shot the next morning. And if there’s a crisis, I don’t freak out.
 
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that I’m an oddball. I don’t fit the norm and need to be more patient. People have different rhythms.
 
In games like basketball, players will get in a rhythm. Michael Jordan would get in one and be unstoppable. When he was in a rhythm, everything he shot, no matter how off balance, would go in the basket.
 
God made us with spiritual rhythms. He built us as cyclical beings that are hard-wired to need down-time. Guys in boot camp deprived of sleep will begin to hallucinate. They need REM sleep to repair their neural pathways – their rhythm is broken.
 
God built us to need time off in a day and in a week and in a year. Given how we’re prone to step out of our rhythms, he mandated the Sabbath – a day a week for restoration and reflection. Similarly, we see Jesus inundated by crowds and then going to solitary places to seek the Father and restore his rhythm.
 
A number of factors go into our specific rhythm. Intensity and passion are two of the most salient.
 
Intensity has to do with focused energy and drive. You can easily see the intensity of players and coaches in sports. John Gruden, the preternaturally intense NFL coach, acquired the nickname “Chuckie” because of his scary intensity.
 
People who are intense typically have difficulty sustaining that intensity over a long time. They burn out and burn others out. If they don’t learn how to self-regulate and how to help others develop a rhythm that accommodates their intensity, they can regularly blow up relationships and leave people shaking their heads.
 
Passion is a related concept – it has to do with our commitment and emotional response to an issue or relationship. I’m around a lot of passionate people. We love Jesus, have experienced the freedom he brings, and passionately want to see others experience it too.
 
It’s wonderful to be aligned with passionate people. I don’t have to worry about core values or distraction. But passionate people tend to cycle with high highs and low lows. Knowing that rhythm enables me to give them grace rather than judging them.
Restoration
Some of us burn out in our prayer life for no better reason than that we  don’t understand our own internal rhythms. We need to find a place and time of prayer that works for us. We need to allow the rhythm we establish to move us into a more natural place and at a natural pace. Indeed, it’s in creating space for reflection and prayer that God can show us ourselves. He shows us the kind of rhythms we need to live a life characterized by peace as opposed to conflict.
 
Because things and people get out of rhythm, we need help restoring the natural order. My piano teacher introduced me to the metronome to help me find my rhythm. Syncopation is central to music. We even have rhythm sections in bands.
 
Have you noticed how many people you’re around are really out of rhythm? Like the younger version of me, they don’t really understand how they’re uniquely calibrated. Maybe they’re swimming with the sharks and feel they need to be one. For example, Katie Couric always seemed to me basically sweet-spirited. But her job forced her to be tough and at times sharp-edged. Some of us are naturally more gracious, but life has forced us out of rhythm and we are the worse for it.
 
When that happens, a sabbatical is often in order. Just shut down the system, let it idle and recalibrate. We all get out of rhythm and need space. Even the earth does, which is why God told us to let it periodically lie fallow and recuperate. It’s why he proclaimed a year of Jubilee when a giant RESET button could be mashed and everything out of rhythm restored.
 
How are your rhythms? Do you even know them? And assuming you do, if you’re out of rhythm, what kind of Sabbath, sabbatical, or Jubilee might God be wanting for you just to restore you to yourself?

Comments (8)

  • Right on Seth. I am a late-20-something and trying too hard to swim with the sharks. I work in addition to my crazy-schedule, low-paying, full-time job with the goal of someday solely supporting my family, but it ultimately causes more anxiety than it’s worth in income. I get out of rhythm way too often. I fall in the “passionate” description and often wonder if I need to pursue more fully my newly discovered passion area of church outreach communication (a dream I brought to Kingdom Dreams).
    Jesus never fails us, indeed, Bill. I think letting us fall out of rhythm is one of the ways God calls out to us and grabs for us, to draw us near, if we’re willing.

  • Thanks Seth…there are some things to mull on here. I guess @ this place in life the greatest truths for me start with the unshakable truth we are called to be “human beings” not “human doings”. God isn’t a football coach and the only things we “do” that matter flow from what the Living God does “through us”.

    All the rest may make us feel good about how we are helping God but in reality it gets burned up with other good intentions.

    The person with a terminal illness confined to a bed but praying incessantly is God’s “rockstar” off to the side and with no acclaim.

    In heaven we’ll see how wrong many of us have been (I confess) about what really matters.

    Love to Leah by the way. Tell her I’m proud.

  • This puts words to what I’ve been feeling lately.

    I’ve come to the realization recently that my job just isn’t a good fit. I’ve been feeling very burn out and stressed, and this particular job seems to bring out the worst in me instead of utalizing my strengths.

    I realized just the other day that I’ve been adapting my core personality to try to suceed in this environment, and although I can do it – it is just wearing me out. In some ways I was looking at it as failure because I’ve been having a difficult time keeping it all together lately. But it occurred to me that I’m working against my natural tendancies, and therefore should not be surprised at the long term effects.

    I appreciate your clarity in expressing this. I feel more able to just accept is as a bad fit instead of viewing it as a failure. I know my strengths, and I need to work in an environment where they can surface and grow.

    Now of course, I have to trust that God will help me to find such a place.

  • You’ve touched on how I’m able to lead 15 projects a year-it’s a rhythm I get into from Jan 15th to April 10th, then May 26th to August 10th. In the fall it’s a time to unwind to some degree. The irony is that I often go into a bit of a slump slowing down and coming down from my project rhythm, but then regain some equilibrium at a slower pace for the fall, which allows me to rest until I ramp up to again enter the project phase. When I feel like I’m loosing it, I turn to the Lord (Matt 11:28-29 and Isaiah 40:28-31). He has never failed me!!!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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