Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

By Sarah Boonstra

Have you ever attended a party where the music was SO loud you could barely hear the person right next to you talk?  Or perhaps, like me, your house is periodically filled with loud and rambunctious teenagers all yelling louder than the other to be heard.  

Some days I feel like my life is like one of those parties. Life with three kids is loud and chaotic and I love it. Yet, I keep adding other things in an effort to prove my value to God, my family, and my friends. I keep adding stuff until the noise in my life becomes too great. Until the rhythm in our family is racing at such a pace that it becomes unsustainable. I long for less, for a slower pace. 

Maybe some days you feel like that too.  

In 1 Kings 19:12 God shows up in a gentle whisper, not an earthquake or a fire. What if, in all the busyness of our lives, we’ve made it so loud that we can’t hear Him over the noise of our lives, even when we sit down right next to him?

For over a year, God has been pruning activities and commitments from my everyday. He has been quieting my life so I might actually hear him. 

Day by day God is inviting me to sit, listen, and, hear how he loves me.  

"Unforced rhythms of grace" - these words continue to pop into this season of my life. Jennie Allen spoke of them when she came to speak at Flatirons and the same phrase has appeared repeatedly in the books I’m reading. 

But what does it even mean to live in the “unforced rhythms of grace”?  Because I am a word nerd I decided to define each word to create more manageable pieces.  

Unforced: not produced by effort; natural
Rhythm: a regularly recurring sequence of events, actions or processes
Grace: the free unmerited favor of God. 

Living a life of “unforced rhythms of grace” would be to naturally, without effort, regularly live in the unmerited favor of God. 

Is this really what Jesus was offering in Matthew 1:28-30? 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I desire a deeper relationship with God and the contentment he promises. I also long to hear him and know I’m in his will. 

I want to sit, knowing I have God’s favor, not because of what I do, but because I’m His. 

I let go of many of the activities I did to fill my days, the things I thought made me valuable; attending school board meetings, running staff appreciation for our local school and trying to be a savior when any of my family or friends experienced life challenges. I exchanged them for small everyday tasks like watering flowers, walking my dog and actually folding the laundry as I wash it. I still support those I love who have troubles, but I no longer feel the need to jump in and be a savior. I realized I’m just not qualified. This role change and the everyday tasks have forced me to accept that I am small. 

Accepting this smallness initially bruised my pride. I want to matter, be needed and feel important. But acknowledging I am small and my value is not determined by the work I do is a bit of relief, eventually. Instead of earning God's favor, I'm learning to accept His unmerited grace. This means I can stop trying so hard.  

The fine line between being confident in God’s love and accepting that I am small is a difficult line to walk. It requires me to keep my eyes on Jesus in each new moment, rather than on myself. It also allows me to be fully present in the tasks that are before me right now. I’m learning to accept this gift of quiet and smallness and enjoy it. Being small and present has brought more joy in my every day than the hustling for acceptance ever did.  

In her book Simply Tuesday, Emily P. Freeman states “There is a daily-ness to my work, a small-moment perspective that whispers for me to connect with the work in my right-now hands, not because it's going to become something Big and Important, but because Someone who is Big and Important is here, with me, in me, today.”

This new rhythm in my life is one that is quiet and slow. It may be just for now or it may be forever. I’m not sure. My job, currently, is simply to keep my eyes on Jesus and keep the unnecessary noise out of my life. 

Sarah is wife to Brian, and a mom of three hilarious, witty and challenging kids. She’s an imperfect Jesus follower, learning to live in the unforced rhythms of grace. Also, a dog lover, just ask Nala, the spoiled golden-doodle that resides at her feet.    

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