The unforced rhythms of grace

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.“

For many years this quote from Jesus recorded in Matthew’s Gospel has drawn me. However, I have read it as an imperative. This is what I should do because it’s a good thing.

But I now realise more fully that it is an extraordinary invitation. It offers the possibility of crossing a threshold into something new.

This liminal space in lockdown has shifted my perspective, as I know it has for many others. Yet I feel like I am only scratching the surface.

Rhythm of today

Our days have shifted almost beyond recognition. How often have we even forgotten what day it is?

Yet amid this disorientation, new rhythms have emerged.

And I suspect that for most, there are things that are now part of our days that we don’t want to lose.

Perhaps it’s exercise, regular contact with people who are important to us. Or the little practices that have helped us shape our day.

For me, this is still a work in progress. But it is giving me a pattern which includes walking, writing, creating and reading so that I have something to offer.

It helps me be more present – to my work and my household – because I am more realistic about what my day can contain.

And it is good.

Have you found an emerging rhythm to your day that you want to maintain?

Rhythm of life

This time has also raised much bigger questions of the rhythm of our lives.

One of the shifts has been from reaction to intention. Yes, I know we didn’t choose to be in this position – whether in lockdown or intensive working.

But the constraints and imperatives we have been facing have, of themselves, forced us to see our lives with a longer and broader perspective.

For many, it has brought us face-to-face with issues of life and death that were not customary. These things are no longer behind close doors, whispered in the shadows, for just a few.

It is our narrative, and no one is immune.

It has liberated us to think about the bigger arc of life. And ask questions about what kind of life do we want to live.

It has enlivened us to the seasons which shape the natural world. And calls us to reconnect with the rhythm that has never gone away.

As well as liberating, it also grounds us.

And in this time of transition, we need to know where our feet can stand firm in the broader rhythm of life.

Unforced rhythms of grace

Which leads me back to that beautiful invitation.

It beckons me into an experience of life that I want.

Not a “go slow“ or single pace, but a quality of life.

In particular, to a life of not striving. Working hard, but not with that relentless pressure to perform or succeed.

I can easily end up trying too hard, with the weight of the world (or at least my world) on my shoulders. Of taking myself too seriously.

However, this invitation doesn’t diminish us.

If anything, it opens the possibility of being so much clearer about what is in our hands. And letting go – especially emotionally – of what is not.

And this is the calling of grace. Of living a grace-full life, which I know is far more beautiful than anything I could create for myself. If left to my own devices.

So why wouldn’t I want to say yes?

John O’Donohue puts this so well in his comment on the Celtic sense of time as a creative occasion from Benedictus:

Yet for the person who lives time consciously there is a continuous undertow of possibility always at work. Accordingly, it is received and appreciated as continuous occasions of invitation. To live like this is to experience time as a constant invitation to growth – to become more than you have been, to transform loss into presence, and to allow what is false to fall away. At the gates of time, blessing waits to usher towards us the grace we need.

John O’Donohue from Benedictus

As we move into this next phase of our lives, I pray that we will know the unforced rhythms of grace – in reality.

Thanks for reading


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