Unforced Rhythms of Grace
They don't come naturally, but they can be learned.
“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)
Whether you are a parent, a teenager, a corporate executive, or a day laborer, it probably seems like someone is always wanting something from you. And in those brief moments when people let up, technology steps in to take their place with notifications that bing or buzz their insistent demands.
It seems harder than ever to recover our lives and live in unforced rhythms of grace.
I love that Jesus, in Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase,1 tells us this is something that can be learned as we watch Him.
Here’s one account from early in His ministry.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he was praying. Simon and his companions searched for him, and when they found him they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.” (Mark 1:35–38, CSB)
Don’t miss the obvious. Jesus was disappointing a lot of people. There’s simply no other way to read this. Jesus did not meet these people’s perceived needs or wants. Everyone was looking for him, and he said, “let’s go somewhere else.”
Instead of meeting their needs, Jesus did three things we can learn from.
He took time to get alone.
The only time He could get away from people was early in the morning, so that’s when He went away to a deserted place.
It’s been said so often that I cringe to type these played-out words, but if Jesus needed to pray, so do we. He needed to commune with His Father, which I think led to the third thing He did:
He set His sights on His mission.
Getting alone and spending needed time in prayer can help you gain clarity in the midst of what Charles Hummel calls the tyranny of the urgent. When the disciples found Jesus and laid out a packed schedule full of meetings, He remembered his mission and said, “no.” And then, He stepped back into the madness.
So if you are overwhelmed by it all, step away from people and devices whenever you can find the time, be it early in the morning, late at night, or while the kids are at soccer practice.
Take a few minutes to pray.
And set your sights back on what God has called you to do.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
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Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible gets a bad rap. He is so poignant and low-shelf in his take on the Word, especially with phrases like this that get at the heart of Jesus’ message.