I first heard about the concept of rhythm roughly two and a half years ago through a message series at the church I was attending at the time. I was a good series and had a lot of practical teaching. The only problem was, when I first heard about rhythm, I thought the concept was stupid, frankly, a notion I held on to for another year and a half.
About a year later, after that series, I asked a good friend of mine (in a completely unrelated conversation) what they thought I could improve on in my life. They (very lovingly) told me to stop focusing on “achieving” balancein life and to start focusing on rhythm. They were right, and since then, I’ve discovered that rhythm isn’t stupid. Quite the opposite, in fact. The concept and principles of rhythm have changed my life dramatically for the better in the past year or so, and it’s made me passionate about sharing it with anyone else who will listen.
It’s at this point you might be wondering: what is rhythm?
When you hear the word “rhythm,” what comes to mind first? For most people, they will probably think of musicalrhythm, but that’s not what we are talking about here. To cultivate healthy rhythms means to create a set of practices, habits, and schedules that help us thrive in life as we were designed and desire to.When talking about rhythm, we are talking about what we do on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly (and so on) basis that shapes and molds us into who God has created us to be.
If you’ve been alive for more than five seconds though, you’ve probably already heard of a phrase like “work-life balance” (or something similar). “Achieving balance” seems to be a pretty important goal for a lot of people. We try to find balance between the time we spend with friends vs. the time we spend alone. The number of calories we consume vs. the amount of time we exercise. The type of mulch we use in our garden vs. the varieties of plants we want to grow. Balance seems to be something we all try and find.
The problem is: balance is unattainable and unsustainable.
The biggest issue with balance is that it’s static. Whereas rhythm is dynamic, flexible, and gives us space to make changes and allow for internal and external forces to influence us, balance is unchanging and permanent. Whereas rhythm reminds us that our practices, habits, and schedules are flexible and can change under different demands, pressures, and dreams, balance tries to find a static distribution of weight among two or more things that never changes, and that is simply unsustainable.
Life is inherently unbalance and non-static. We know this. The world is constantly changing around us, as are the demands and obligations of our own life. The sudden death of a family member or friend, our kid(s) getting sent to the principal’s office at school, sudden weather changes, the loss of a job — all these suddenly upset the “balance” of life, and we have very little way of predicting them.
In light of this, learning to embrace the concept of rhythm in our life can actually free us from the pressure of trying to balance all these various aspects. It allows us to set priorities where we need to and helps us to be flexible under changing demands, pressures, and obligations, particularly those that are out of our control. It sets us free from the illusion of control, instead focusing our attention on trusting God. This is why rhythm is ultimately superior to balance.
At the beginning of this post, I included a calendar screenshot of a week from September 2020. As you can see, my calendar was extremely full in that season of life. I was a part-time teacher, a full-time student, and alongside that, writing a book, among many other things happening. But fast-forward a month or two and my calendar looked much different, much less full. This is the beauty of rhythm. Our rhythms change as we grow in maturity and transition between different seasons of life. One season’s rhythm is not necessarily better than the other. They are simply indicative of different people in different walks of life.
How can we cultivate healthy rhythms, then? That’s where a “rhythm of life” comes in.
Historically, it’s called a “rule of life.” They had their start and upbringing in the monastic tradition, as early back as the fourth century. While the tradition has continued throughout church history, in my experience, I’ve found that the word “rule” can cause people to get their knickers in a twist, so I’ve renamed it to be a “rhythm” of life.
A rhythm of life is a set of practices, habits, and schedules that help us thrive while molding us into the person God has created us to be and we desire to be. While a rhythm of life touches every part of our life, I’ve focused on five areas in my book: (1) relationships and community, (2) boundaries, (3) rest, work, and movement, (4) worship and prayer, and (5) service, generosity, and hospitality.
What is most interesting is that we all technically already have a rhythm of life. We each have our own unique set of values, beliefs, and patterns of living. The problem is that most people don’t take the time to sit down and think about what they do on a day-to-day basis and how those things are shaping them. Chances are that you’re stressed, anxious, and hurried most of the time. I certainly was. The focus in this book is help you be the opposite. To organize your lives into sustainable rhythms that help you remain present, peaceful, and joyful, while connecting you in abiding relationship to the One who created you.
And it all starts with a rhythm of life.
In this article series, I share excerpts and stories from my book, Thriving by Following. I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did enjoy it and want to stay up to date, you can reach me here via email, or connect with me on Instagram. You can also find my book on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback.