“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” -Thomas Merton
We live in a creation that is full of rhythm.
Winter, spring, summer, fall.
Sunrise and sunset.
Planting and harvest.
The rising and falling of the tides.
We even get a glimpse of God’s rhythm at the very beginning of these natural cycles in Genesis 1 when God works and rests.
Consider that the very first gift God gave to mankind was rest. Adam and Eve’s first experience in creation and with their creator was to rest and enjoy what he had created.
Yet too often we forget that we, as created beings, are in need of rhythm in our own lives.
The Gift of Rhythm
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15:5
Did you notice what our role is in this verse? To produce? Hustle? Strive? To live out of rhythm? No.
When our producing consumes our abiding we adopt an unsustainable pace that robs us of the gift in the rhythms God gave us.
Work hard? Absolutely!
Dream big and work toward that? Certainly!
But when those things become the driving force of our life we are in trouble. Our source of inspiration fades, dreaming becomes a task and creation seems duty bound.
How is the rhythm in your own life? Do you feel tired, burned out, exhausted, ready for a break, constantly needing a vacation? Has your inspiration, dreaming and creating become exhausting rather than life giving?
Your life rhythm may be off and in need of realigning.
What Do You Do When You Realize Your Rhythm is Off?
I’ve recently set some goals for myself when I start drowning in my work and realize I need to take a step away to save myself (and my work):
- Get Away: It doesn’t have to be two weeks on some remote beach (although if that’s possible, do it!). Sometimes it just takes a weekend at a lake or a local B&B to return to a healthy rhythm.
- Unplug: The average cell phone user in America checks their phone 150 times a day. Take a day where you turn your phone off and unplug. Read an actual book. Play a board game. Eat a meal and don’t Instagram a photo of it! Just unplug from electronics, and plug into something that is life giving.
- Get Inspired: As creative people we are often renewed through creative inspiration. In 2011, when my life rhythm was horribly wrong, I went to the Echo Conference. Even though it was a busy few days with lots of things going on, I found rest and abiding because of how inspiring the environment was for me. Look for a conference or workshop that gets you excited, not wears you out.
- Get Out: Go for a walk, take a hike, climb a mountain, go fishing, fly a kite, feed the birds. Do anything that gets you out of an office or a coffee shop and into nature. There is something incredibly peaceful about being alone in creation where our rhythms originally began.
- Connect to the Vine: Too often we try and do God’s work in our power. Be intentional about your personal time with God. Make it a priority and allow God’s peace and rest to permeate your time. Often when we’ve reached the point of exhaustion he’s beckoning us to just be still and rest in him.
How Do You Keep Yourself in Rhythm?
Maybe you aren’t experiencing unhealthy rhythm in your life right now, but we still need to guard against that temptation. These are ways that I am learning to become a warrior of my rest and guard against my work robbing me of healthy rhythms:
- One Day: In the Old Testament God was constantly reminding his people to keep the Sabbath holy. I’m not suggesting we be bound to the law, but there is great significance in God wanting his people to remember and take time to enjoy his first gift to mankind—rest. Over and over again he promises to give his people rest. Take one day (for some of us it can’t be Sunday) that isn’t devoted to work and truly rest.
- Guard Your Mind: Your moments are sacred. It’s sacred to honor your covenant relationship with the Lord, your spouse, your family, your spiritual partners. But too often that is when we begin remembering the list of things we have to do at work. I drive in my car with the windows down and the ideas and tasks begin piling up. I have to vigilantly guard my mind against the list of things I have to do. If I am inspired by something on my day off, I write it down and forget it until my next work day.
- Infuse With Life: Your days and times of rest need to be life giving. These are the opportunities you get to take time to breathe and refocus. So don’t schedule a coffee with someone who will drag you down. Don’t change the tires on your car if you know that’s a battle. Don’t do things that cause you stress. These are the moments necessary to infuse life back into you and into your work.
- Moments Matter: Moments throughout the day matter, and sometimes you may just need a moment. If you find yourself pressed against a figurative wall or meeting a roadblock, take a moment. Stand up and stretch. Flip through a coffee table book. Close your eyes for a minute. Find a moment to do something that inspires you or gives you a chance to breathe. Rest in that moment and enjoy it.
Remember, when we become people who press into producing, rather than press into abiding, we take on the unnecessary burden of producing fruit in our life, instead of allowing God to do that, and we begin to live a rhythm that we were never created to sustain.
We rob him of the gift he intended for us. A gift that for us as creatives is imperative to making inspired work. Without rest we begin producing rather than creating.
Stop. Breathe. Listen.
What is God saying to you about the rhythm in your life?