“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 MSG
This verse really resonates with us, especially those words “rhythms of grace”. So much so that it inspired this next mini-series for Live it Out Loud. Over the next eight weeks, we’re going to be digging a little deeper and exploring what these rhythms are all about.
Times have moved on since Jesus spoke the words recorded in the book of Matthew. But we humans have never managed to shake the toils and troubles of what life throws our way. If anything we’ve compounded the problem with emails, mobiles, socials – taking our need for competition and greatness global. Finding peace when we’re continually ‘wired in’ is no mean feat.
Jesus seems to have understood the need to unwind, to recharge. And in this verse, he’s not only emphasising the importance of rest – he’s showing us that our energy levels matter to God. We don’t always need to be ‘on’, burning the candle at both ends – even if we think we’re busy with really important stuff. Jesus’ invitation here is to pace ourselves and find the right rhythm.
Have you noticed how Jesus never seemed hurried? He was constantly inundated with urgent needs, surrounded by crowds, with barely enough time to catch his breath. Events happened quickly, one after another after another. In just one day he could go from preaching to casting out demons, to healing the sick (check out Mark 1:21-34). Can you imagine how that would play out in our 21st Century world? The number of emails, tweets and DMs that would blow up his inbox?
This invitation isn’t just an excuse to lie in until midday (however tempting that might be). It’s an invitation engrained deep into our very being. A song that is written on our hearts. One that invites us all to dance to its tune, to tap a foot to its beat, to live mindfully of our own and others’ needs, to consider the ripples of our own actions. To cultivate harmony.
As Rob Bell puts it: “The question isn’t whether or not you’re playing a song. The question is: are you in tune? Like it’s written in the book of Acts; it says that God gives us life and breath and everything else. God is generous. So when I’m selfish and stingy and I refuse to give, I’m essentially out of tune with the song. Later, in one of John’s letters, he says that God is love; unrestrained, unconditional love. So when you see somebody sacrifice themselves for another, for the wellbeing of somebody else, it’s like they’re playing in the right key. That’s why it’s so inspiring and powerful; they’re in tune with the song.”
So, notice the signs of being out of tune. Maybe you feel that you’re not good enough, or that time isn’t on your side? That other people are just better equipped to do the stuff that you suddenly find exhausting. Maybe you’re caught in a wave of comparison – so busy looking outwards that you forget to look inwards. Maybe you’re feeling crushed under the weight of your own self-doubt.
For each of us, there will be different things that can send life ‘out of tune’.
So, as we delve a little into what the Bible has to say about rhythms, let’s remember people have heard this song for thousands and thousands of years. On every continent, in every culture. It’s a song that will keep playing: how will we tune in?