Rhythm. I’m finding this January has truly been a re-centering for me, a re-learning, a remembering. Underneath all the soul-clutter, there has been a gentle heartbeat that serves our family well when I slow down long enough to listen. The key, of course, is slowing down. With every turn of the year now, I feel this message getting louder. Slow down. Slow. Still.
How counter-cultural such a simple thing as this is; so against the pushing tide of our twenty-first century. Choosing this means to step outside of a paradigm that nearly crushes with it’s ferociousness, and it is not easy.
To some, it comes naturally. They wouldn’t even call it ‘slow living’ or any other trendy name: it’s just the way they live. My grandparents are of this camp. It’s not something they have to work at or think about- the natural rhythm of their days only allows for so much, and they know what limited resources they have at their disposal. I’ve watched them for years and years and I always learn something new from them. It’s not about being hippie granola types, either. They don’t wear Birkenstocks or drive a Subaru Outback. My grandma doesn’t can. (My Oma used to.) But there is hardly any waste in either of their kitchens. It always surprises and humbles me when I watch them at work. There is hardly any waste, period, especially time. I never feel rushed around slow-living people. Time always seems to open up, stretch like long rays of afternoon sun across the floor. It has to be intentional. This truth seems so obvious to me and yet so very elusive. When our rhythm is present, everyone feels it and knows it: the house chores move quietly along without much extra help, productive play comes easily, the days seem full in a lovely way that is quite unmatched. When the rhythm isn’t there, it’s chaos. I seem to swing wildly between the poles of existence, the difference between being deliciously sated by a wonderful meal and being uncomfortably, unbearably stuffed after too much of a good thing on Thanksgiving afternoon. One is live-giving; the other is a deprivation. There’s an intentional middle ground for the everyday that I need to find, a balance that must be fought for.
It’s the absence of this that has brought deep emotional injury on our family in the last few years. I’ll write more on this tomorrow, but what I want to call attention to today is the fact that when we (wittingly or unwittingly) choose chaos for our family, great tears rend the fabric of family. We’re all scattered, un-moored, un-anchored. I love my family desperately. They are the most important thing to me on earth, the blessings given to me by a gracious God. They deserve the best. I had never really considered what happens when I don’t intentionally seek a mindful rhythm for my family; how much it devalues and destroys the family I treasure so much. It sends a message that the time we spend together isn’t important, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I want my inner heart-beat of love and care to be the one they hear, not the chaotic freefall of a harried, exhausted mama. There is a season of that, to be sure; we all go through times of testing, long hours and short nights where we are going to be at the edges of our strength. I’m not condemning that at all, in any way. But when harried, exhausted, and scattered become my default season, it’s time to re-evaluate. We were never meant to live at the edge of ourselves for such extended periods of time, men and women alike. It plays havoc upon our physical systems, and if we can at least recognize the physical effects, how much more grave must the emotional and mental ones be?I feel at my best when there is space in my days. With every heart beat, there is an equal silence as the blood flows powerfully throughout the body in fractions of seconds. There has to be the inward pull but also the outward flow- without it, the heart does not work properly. So to, our families and our lives. When we are hurried and rushed, exhausted and un-anchored, we feel heart-sick. When the rhythm slows, our heart returns to its natural courses. We find rest and the strength to accomplish our work each day. This gentle rhythm is worth fighting for, always.