I Ain't Got Rhythm
My son was born just in time to fall in love with the Disney TV show “Phineas and Ferb.” I think I’ve seen every episode—at least three times. (And between us, I love the show, too!) One of my favorite episodes is an homage to Blues Brothers where the boys try to get their parents a special anniversary present—a reunion of one of their favorite bands. Yeah, the boys are gettin’ the band back together. Including the drummer. Who lost his rhythm. It’s a great song. Look it up.
Like the drummer, I’ve lost my rhythm.
Truth be told, I love rhythm. After all, I’m a music teacher and one would expect that. I enjoy complex rhythms, simple rhythms, and even static rhythms. Whether its the complex and layered rhythms that are the life of a variety of Latin music styles, the simple and stoic rhythms of a European march, the odd-numbered rhythms typical of eastern styles, rhythms make music work.
So no, I haven’t lost my musical rhythm. Just my spiritual rhythm. And it happens often.
I’ve read several books on spiritual disciplines and building those disciplines into the rhythm of life. I understand the need for those rhythms. I see Daniel, David, Jesus, and others have regular and consistent spiritual rhythms. I can plan and implement a rhythm—even keep it going for a while. But, life.
Further, it seems I don’t have merely a rhythm, but I have several rhythms. As summer came to an abrupt end with the start of school and as soccer started just after, my rhythms disintegrated. What was a regular afternoon of reading books became untenable with evening scripture study. School takes a lot of energy, and I need to rest a bit when I get home. It’s not unusual to catch me asleep at 4:00 pm—not reading. That rest and silence are needed for me to transition to home and be able to function.
According to the spiritual disciplines books I read, it seems there isn’t provision for rhythms regularly breaking down or requiring change. I even have a theory that I have a rhythm for my rhythms (each season has its own). This layering and shifting and complexity of rhythms is a fact for many—and it is a beautiful pattern that is shown in scripture in a variety of ways.
First, consider the festivals of Israel. Each one punctuated the seasons, leading the observant to understand and shift from one season to another—including those rhythms and disciplines that give shape and support to spiritual life.
Then consider Paul. He would shift from itinerant evangelist to church planter to short-term pastor, then back to an evangelist. There would naturally be certain things that were different in those roles—times of prayer, times for writing, times for preaching, and more.
Finally, consider David. He would have had very different routines and rhythms as king than as would-be-king hiding in caves. Worship would, naturally, look different and take different shapes.
None of this is to say that the content, purpose, or focus of the disciplines would change. Rather, they would shift in emphasis, order, or even place in the day. This layering of rhythms can be set to fit the season in which you find yourself. Don’t neglect a discipline whether it be silence, scripture reading, prayer, fasting, gathering with the saints, or worship. But, place them within the rhythms of life which you’re grooving.
For me, this fall has been a lesson in this. I feel like I’m relearning my rhythms all over again. Morning prayer and scripture reading are different during school than in summer. Afternoon reading shifts to times of silence. I’m having to set boundaries on my media time in the evenings to leave time for scripture study and prayer. And these even must move and adjust a bit to account for church nights, soccer practice, my wife’s schedule, and more. I’m learning to set one rhythm in place and solidify it, then add the next.
It’s easy to get discouraged when the rhythms seem to break down. Don’t. Get one to lock-in. Add the next. Enjoy those rhythms together, then add the next. In this way, it’s a lot like the song “I Ain’t Got Rhythm.” A basic beat becomes a tapestry of rhythms. And musically, that’s good. Spiritually, it’s good, too.
I seem to be getting my rhythm back, too. And my spirit is grooving along.