Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Image by Gary Cunliffe from Pixabay

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” – Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 11:29 (The Message)

This month marks the sixteenth anniversary of my sister’s death.

She was only 55. It was totally unexpected.

These things change you. Change the way you think about things. Change the way you live.

At the time I was teaching full time and writing part time for a local newspaper. With the youngest in college and the older two on their own, it was time to pursue those dreams I’d put on the back burner to raise a family.

While teaching was my passion, I wasn’t finding fulfillment in covering school board and county commissioners meetings and election results. And while I loved the camaraderie of the newsroom staff, getting up early Saturday mornings to drive 45 minutes in all kinds of weather to type obituaries wasn’t getting me any closer to my writing goals.

Of course I ignored the signs of dissatisfaction and pushed on. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

Then a post-operative blood clot took the life of my only sister just when we were getting close again. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye.

I shivered on the love seat for days, in shock.

Change. It’s foisted on all of us. Whether we welcome it or not.

The key to surviving it is to look to God, knowing He has a plan and purpose for us (Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139:16), knowing He takes the rough draft of the chapters of our lives and revises them so they shine (Romans 8:28) and lead to the ending He has planned. And knowing that if we follow our Shepherd, we will arrive at that ending without burning ourselves out.

But I hadn’t been stopping long enough to listen to God.

My sister’s death was a wakeup call—to pause in my headlong rush to fulfill my dreams and be all things to all people, and determine where I was truly headed.

Davis Bunn, in his 40-day devotional “The Turning,” writes, “When we read, we give no notice to the spaces between the words. And yet those pauses are vital. Without them, there is nothing but a senseless jumble. With them, thoughts are unique, words are clear, ideas fashioned, lives transformed. So it is with the brief pauses we make to stop and listen. Our thoughts and actions take on new clarity.”

And so it was for me. If I were to die suddenly in my mid-fifties, I thought, would I have realized my dreams? Within a week, I resigned from the newspaper job.

I still get too busy, lose focus, and drift away from God’s path for me. It’s refreshing to pause, still the clamor of life, rest and recharge spent batteries.

“Are you tired? Worn out?” Jesus says. “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 and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28–29, The Message).

I’m a slow learner, Lord. I have to force myself to slow down. Sometimes my body, mind, and spirit are just too exhausted to push on. Remind me often to pause to reflect, rest, and recharge. Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 23

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God. © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Silent Saturday

 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. –Psalm 30:5 (KJV)

Today is what I call “Silent Saturday”—the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

As a child I faithfully attended Holy Thursday and Good Friday services. One of the things I remember about this time right before Easter is that no music was played in church. The organ was silent, as were the bells and other instruments. Songs were sung a cappella.

This period of silence impressed upon me the solemnness of the time when God’s Son was betrayed, condemned, crucified, and buried, paying the price for the sins of all mankind from the dawn of creation to the end of time.

I knew, of course, what would follow—Easter! The day Jesus burst out of that Mid-Eastern tomb in all His glory—alive forever! The return of music! The return of hope and joy.

Little, if anything, is said in the Gospels about “Silent Saturday.” For the Jews of that time, it was the Sabbath, a day of rest. A day no work was to be done.

We read nothing of what Jesus’ followers did that day.

We can only imagine what they felt: Grief. Hopelessness. Despair. Terror. If the Jewish authorities could do this to Jesus, who performed all those miracles and claimed to be God’s Son, what would they do to His disciples? So they hid, their dreams for the Kingdom and their places in it shattered, their future uncertain. The plan, they thought, went horribly, horribly wrong.

Or did it?

They had no idea that actually everything was going wonderfully, impossibly, exactly according to plan—God’s plan. They didn’t know they were in the waiting room—not the hiding place—between deep despair and unbridled joy. Between apparent defeat and glorious triumph. Between terror and a holy boldness that would set the world on fire and launch the Jesus Movement.

But, oh! That first Easter morning—who could even begin to describe the wonder they experienced at the empty tomb, the joy at seeing Jesus alive? It was exceedingly, abundantly, above all they could have imagined.

But they didn’t know all that on Silent Saturday.

What about you?

Are you in a “Silent Saturday” time of your life? Are you dealing with grief, loss, bitter disappointment, discouragement, night-long weeping? Are you scraping at the bottom of the empty barrel of hope? Fighting despair and feel like you’re losing the battle? Thinking that your dreams, your future, are sealed up in a tomb of decay?

Hang on, dear one loved by God. Saturday will pass. The night of weeping will end. The Son will burst over the horizon, His rays chasing away despair and flooding your soul with hope and joy.

It’s Silent Saturday, but get ready, Pilgrim. Sunday’s coming.

Thank You, God, for Easter, when hope springs eternal. Amen.

Read and reflect on John 16:16–33.

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.