“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 and work 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.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
“Holy days are a background rhythm for your life that you fit the rest of your life into. You don’t take a day off; you take a day apart. The Sabbath defines the rest of the days. That’s a totally different way of viewing time than our culture views it. It’s not easy. It requires long training and persistent determination. But ultimately it’s easier to live this way than to live fragmented, crazy.”
~ Eugene Peterson
When I was 28 years old, with three children under the age of 6 and my husband’s blessing, I decided to fulfill a childhood dream of being a ballerina. So at about 20 pounds overweight uniformed in new shoes, tights and a leotard, I stood in front of very large mirrors surrounded by girls and boys no older than 10 and took classical ballet lessons, for almost ten years.
I thought that when I began dance again that everything that I had learned as a young girl between the ages of 10 and 13, would come back to me in a flash and I would be ahead of the game. Right. My mind had the memory, my muscles didn’t. I thought that if I pushed myself really hard that I would be en pointe (in toe shoes), in about a year – it took seven. Also, I had to balance my passion for music and dance with my responsibilities as a wife and mother. Everything took careful balance and rhythm to come together. During that near decade, I lost the 20 pounds, had gained strength, grace and my goal – I became an instructor and could strap on the toe shoes and twirl with the pre-professionals.
There were many nights I left the dance studio and rushed to my car so that no one could see my tears of frustration. What I wanted was attainable, but only in part. I would never look like the teenagers in my class, would never carry off their ease and grace in performance.
One night after rehearsal my instructor stopped me at the door. I blinked back the tears, hoping she wouldn’t see my shame. She put her hand on my shoulder gently and told me I was pushing too hard – that if I didn’t allow my mind and muscles to come into alignment I was on the brink of an injury. “Take a few days” she said, “and just think about the choreography.” She told me to visualize doing the steps in time to the music and to breathe as though actually dancing.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that day I learned about rest. I had pushed and pushed my body to perform – I was dancing as fast as I could – but the process would not be rushed. My body needed exercise and discipline, but then it needed rest and reflection.
And so it is with following the Rabbi. There’s a time for work and a time for rest, and both are active. Joy can be found when we allow ourselves to put down our plans in order to follow those unforced rhythms of grace, thereby allowing Him to build and construct our lives in harmony with His divine artistry. I became a dancer as I chose to work and rest in the rhythm of how my older frame could handle each new challenge.
On the night of my very last performance with my dance studio in Colorado, six months before we moved back to Washington State, one of our regular patrons came up to me and told me that I should be given the award for “most improved.” Unbeknownst to me this gentleman had watched me dance for years with our small company. He said, “I didn’t think you would ever become such a beautiful dancer. You always seemed so nervous, like you were afraid you’d miss a step. Tonight I couldn’t tell you apart from the other girls. I was shocked when I realized it was you.” That was the best compliment he could have ever given me.
As with music, Life is about movement and stillness, sound and silence, joy and sorrow. Our Heavenly Father gives us freedom to make our own rhythm as we live day to day, but He is uniquely tuned to the vibration of our existence and will shape and mold the manifold tapestry of the symphony of our lives, if we will take the Time… to Rest… in the hands of the Master.
Tanya Lee Hodel is a contributing writer and leader for Sacred Space. She has been leading worship for over two decades, and brings a love of spiritual formation to all that she does.
You can contact Tanya at: firstname.lastname@example.org