Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Balance and Rhythm

We talk a lot today about finding balance in our lives.

I think of the woman who works a full time job, taxis her kids to soccer games, cooks supper and volunteers at her daughter's elementary school PTO. And, at some moment, maybe during a PTO meeting, or maybe at soccer practice, or during her coffee break, she takes her mind off the meeting, or off the practice or away from the office politics long enough to think to herself, "When did my life spin out of control?" Or, I think of the guy who works a lot of over time, coaches his son's baseball team and is an officer in his local lodge. Maybe while he is driving between work and the lodge meeting he thinks to himself, "When do I get a little 'me time?'"

Now, the contemporary prescription for those questions is to find balance. But, I wonder, balance between what? Work and family? Work and rest? Work and volunteerism? The physical and the emotional? The physical and the spiritual? All of the above? None of the above? More than the above?

Where is the fulcrum??? Do we work 40 hours and spend time with our family for forty hours? Or is ten enough? Or two? Do we spend an hour in prayer every week, along with an hour of worship, work 35 hours, play six hours, relax three hours, read for an hour, and spend the remainder with our family? Which family? My wife and kids? My in-laws? My brothers and their family? Is this balance?

I am thinking that balance is an elusive if not an illusory thing.

The ancient, and I believe Biblical, response to the needs of the woman and man above is not to find balance, but to discover a rhythm in their lives. I believe that God built a certain rhythm into the universe: breath out - breath in, the beating of a healthy heart, work - rest, sunrise - sunset (if you are now thinking of the song from Fiddler on the Roof you are both corny and old. But, then again, I thought of the song from Fiddler on the Roof, so maybe that makes you a well-rounded individual with good taste in musicals.)

Only within the last hundred years or so have we scientifically discovered what the church has been singing for much longer: that there is a song in creation. At an atomic and even a sub-atomic level, everything is vibrating. Physicists tell us that the vibration of the electron shell of a carbon atom vibrate at a perfect tone scale of C,D,E,F,G, A - a perfect Gregorian chant hexachord. Marching soldiers who come to a bridge must break step because their cadence gives off a frequency that could destroy the bridge. It is forbidden for the crowd at the Clemson football stadium to sing, Louie, Louie because the song gives off frequencies that are the same as the frequency of the stadium and causes it to fall apart - seriously. I wonder of that was one of the ways God used to bring down the walls of Jericho?

So, if there is music and rhythm built into the universe, perhaps we can find what we are looking for in our frenetic lives by finding rhythm rather than balance?

John and Charles Wesley were ridiculed harshly by their classmates at Oxford University for having a rhythm. Charles had rhythm, that's why he wrote so many hymns - but John and Charles and the rest of the "Holy Club" had a rhythm, or a schedule. They would get up every morning at a certain time, pray, read the Bible, eat breakfast, go to class, study, eat lunch, go to class, pray, go to a prison or a hospital or an orphanage and help people, eat dinner, do homework, read the Bible and go to bed. This more or less repeated itself every day. And, for this rhythm John and Charles were derogatorily called "Methodists." They had a method, a schedule, a rhythm. And, WOW, what an impact they had for the kingdom of God!

Now, personally, I think John was way too anal about his rhythm. And, I am not suggesting that we all follow John Wesley's rhythm. But, I am suggesting that we find our God-given rhythm. As a person who is recovering from a nervous break-down I can testify to the importance of finding your God-given rhythm.

I don't know what that will mean for you, but I know for me it means looking at rest and exercise as if they were appointments I have to keep rather than things I can do if I have time. It means I have to be more intentional about the things that are important, and intentional about discerning between the important and the urgent.

I guess at the end of the day, if you want to waltz through life you have to live in three-quarter time.