Friday, 13 January 2012

Learning the Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Are you longing to find your place in God’s family? When we are insecure about who we really are our natural tendency is to strive to find our meaning. We compare ourselves with others in an attempt to find our place. Often when we do this insecurity, or vain conceit set in. We either feel worse when we look at ourselves in contrast with those who appear to have opportunity and have it all together, or we reassure ourselves believing that our talents and skills are better than others. If we want to follow Jesus we must take this life choice seriously. As children of God we are family. We need to work against inferiority, competition and vanity. These things won’t help us to find our place, just the opposite in fact. They take us further away from finding who we really are. Galatians 5:25-26 in The Message Bible says, “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out it’s implications in every detail of our lives. That means that we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”

Hear these words, “Each of us is an original”. Even you! Especially you. God made you on purpose, for purpose.  As we see here, we have “far more interesting things to do with our lives” so we must try hard to not waste time dwelling on who we are not and concentrate on finding who God says we are.

We don’t need to strive for this, though we often think we do. Our Father is bursting with love for us. We will find this to be true the more time spent in His presence. In 2010 a quite amazing thing happened to me. I was tired and, if I’m honest, had come to a point where I felt like giving up, not on God but on ‘stuff’; the bits that felt too hard. I didn’t want to give up but I was tired with how things were and I didn’t know what to do. God said to me, “Come away with me”. So I went. I felt a renewed sense of desperation to spend time with Jesus. I found myself being pulled into His presence everyday and a sense of urgency surrounding it. I would be driving and feel that I needed to arrive at my destination just so that I could read my Bible or worship Him or just simply rest in His presence. I could tap into His presence in the middle of the busiest days, even while putting the washing out. I found myself being filled with the spirit in my living room and spending time dancing before God in worship! The song “I love Your presence” sung by Jenn Johnson,  became a great help to me during this time. I would fall asleep in the presence of God listening to it. I encourage you to get hold of that song if you haven't heard it and let it wash over you. Rest restored me and brought me such a sense of peace and security.  I felt more than ever that my personal relationship with God was more important than any thing.

During this time I read Matthew 11:28-30. It may be a familiar to you: “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 looked then to The Message translation and it came alive!

“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- 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.”

During this time of spending time with God I ‘recovered my life’. I felt restored but I also felt a learning process begin. I was beginning to learn about the ‘unforced rhythms of grace’.

God can show us how to take a real rest if we let him. That doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t have to do the hectic school run anymore or we have all the time in the world to spend with our loved ones. Life probably won’t suddenly change in that way, but God can teach us to find rest, whatever our circumstances are. So what is real rest? I believe real rest comes when we can learn to settle with who God says we are. Genesis 9:6 tells us that God has made mankind in His image. The Message translation says that ‘God made humans in His image, reflecting God’s very nature’. If we ‘reflect’ God’s very nature, we need to be people who work hard to smooth out the rough edges of our lives in order that the reflection of God can be seen clearly. We do this through studying the Bible, and working to be more like Jesus but also God can smooth out our rough edges when we encounter Him. When we spend time is His presence; when we just rest in Him, we discover great mysteries. I discovered the ‘unforced rhythms of grace’ and I believe you can too.

It is hard to describe ‘the unforced rhythms of grace’ and how these rhythms can completely transform our lives, but I’ll have a go. If something is ‘forced’ it is strained, affected or unnatural. ‘Unforced’ is the opposite: relaxed, genuine and completely natural. When we see someone forcing a situation, whatever their motive, it is uncomfortable to watch. It’s even more uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of it. I don’t believe that God works like that. I think that God won’t teach us by forcing us into understanding grace, it isn’t a strain for Him to do this and he doesn’t have to change who He is in order to get us to understand, it is the opposite. It is like breathing life and freedom into us through His grace. He says that ‘He won’t lay anything ‘heavy’ or ‘ill-fitting’ on us’. This means that the way He reaches us, when we open up our hearts, fits us perfectly. It is not heavy and it fits comfortably. In fact it is tailor made to reach us and bring us back to life because He knows who we are, even if we don’t. 

If we look at the idea of the ‘rhythms’ it can be felt in every God given breath that we take. Just take a moment now to feel the rhythm of your breathing and imagine hearing the name Yahweh in every breath that you take. As we breathe in we hear “Yah” as we breathe out, “weh’’. Yahweh: the name of God, the name that is higher than any other name can be found in the rhythm of our breath. So we breathe Him in and we begin to learn the ‘unforced rhythms of grace’. We don’t have to do anything. We just breathe and recognise He gave us every breath.

Now grace is something that we will continue to learn about for the rest of our lives. Grace is many things. It is God’s love freely given to us. It is unmerited favour and it is also what God breathes into us. One dictionary definition puts it like this: Grace is “the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them”. When we rest and give ourselves time to really catch our breath, we open a door to God and allow Him to have His way. You will find that when you stop and wait for Him, He will come and breathe grace into your life.

It is my hope that you begin to learn the ‘unforced rhythms of grace’ and go on learning them so that God can regenerate and strengthen you. Take time to ‘Get away’ with God, watch how He does it. Read your Bible. The Word of God is alive and it brings us back to life. When we are really alive, we can live freely and lightly and we find out more about who God made us to be, and our place in His family.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Hannah, it's really important to accept ourselves as we are, I tend to see strengths in other people that would make life easier for me if I had them. eg more confidence. I'm trying to look at the positive aspects of myself and the way God made me. At Grapevine, Karl went to a seminar where the people were asked to get into groups and give one another a verse from Psalm 23 as a word of encouragement. Karl decided to do this for me too as I wasn't able to be there. He chose "He will restore my soul", this fits in well with waiting on God and learning the unforced rhythms of grace. I need to do more of it! I enjoyed this blog and look forward to the next one. love Dawn x