I missed the deadline for this article. Ironic, isn’t it? This week we are talking about life-giving rhythms but I didn’t write my article on time. So now I am in the margin of a really early morning trying to crank out this baby. Maybe I shouldn’t write this article after all.
But, maybe I should. Because there is something I have been learning about rhythms this year. I realized that boundaries and the way we think about our sense of self – where we start and where we end – really impacts how we think about margins and in creating rhythms that give life. In a very simple sense, boundaries “define what is me and what is not me” (Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Boundaries, p. 36). To have life-giving rhythms we need to know first who we are and who we are not.
Friend, we are not what we do. I get this confused so often. I learned early on to find my sense of well-being and safety in performing well, in doing what I am supposed to, in thinking that I only matter as long as I am obeying and meeting the needs of others.
I have had so many mornings where I lie in bed, paralyzed, not wanting to get up because the demands of the day are encroaching on my sense of self before my feet hit the ground. I hear the voice of perfectionism, demanding sternly that I get out of bed so I can start doing what I am supposed to. My first thoughts are, “I need to do x, y, z. I need to read my Bible, make breakfast, workout, write this article.” I stay there so I can stall the beginning of the day; I want to be where demands, it seems, can’t touch me.
The problem is that I have often confused the voice of perfectionism with the voice of God. When that crushing voice is the one that rules my days, I don’t really think in terms of life-giving rhythms. But rather, I think in terms of all that needs to get done, often at the expense of my own well-being.
When my sense of self is confused, I struggle to make choices where I care for myself or receive the service of others. It’s as if as soon as I wake up I need to get on the treadmill of life thinking that is how I am glorifying God. I jump into doing first what my husband and children need. I don’t shower, don’t change into clothes that make me feel ready, don’t drink water, and don’t eat breakfast until everyone around me does. But this is not always humility and selflessness. It is a coping mechanism learned a long time ago, a mechanism that is changing as I recognize my Father’s voice.
I am learning that if the voice in my head sounds like the voice of Pharaoh – crushing me in its severity, demanding me to make bricks without giving me any straws – that is not the voice of my Father. My Father’s voice to me is the same one he spoke to his Son, “You are my beloved in whom I delight.” I am confident of this because I am in Christ. When I put my trust in Christ, he and I became one. All that belongs to him became mine. He gave me the same relationship he has with his father, and so all the profound delight that the Father has in his Son, the Father has now for me.
In her book Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren explains it poignantly,
“Galatians tells us that we are clothed in Christ in baptism (Gal. 3:27), clothed in the Beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased. To use Paul’s more chilling image […] I died and was buried, and then, reversing the whole order of the universe, newly born with Christ (Rom. 6: 3-5). As Christians we wake each morning as those who are baptized. We are united with Christ and the approval of the Father is spoken over us.”Liturgy of the Ordinary, p. 15
I know, I know. It sounds like a Christian cliche: “Believe you are loved.” But more and more, the Spirit keeps grounding me in that reality. Our lives start there. We are not what we do, or even how we do it. In Christ, we are in our most basic self, really beloved. Knowing this in our bones is how we glorify our Father, how we truly live by faith.
And so, that is why I believe life-giving rhythms start with a mentality that spills into a way of life. It is more about receiving from our Father than doing a particular thing. I am asking more often, “What things can I do and include in my day, week, and month to receive the love and joyful generosity of my Father?”
Even as I write this article past its due date, I am resting in the love of my Father. His approval of me hasn’t changed, even when I underestimated circumstances in my life that made it hard to turn this in on time. He breathes life into me by reminding me as I write, “I love you.”
So friend, I don’t know what rhythms you need to build into your life or maybe return to, but I encourage you to ask your Father, “What can I do that will help me receive and hear your love for me?” Maybe you will hear him say, “I am happy to show you because nothing matters more than for you to know that you are safe in my love.”
What are you learning about boundaries and rhythms?