By: Kristen Oliver
Book referenced: Unforced Rhythms By: Gwen Jackson
It has been 3 years since I have been on the yearly spouse retreat my church denomination holds every year. Let me tell you something…it is truly wonderful! We stay at a very nice resort, have kid free time, I can take naps and read at my leisure, it is refreshing and just what Mike and I need this time in the year. Monday morning, we had a speaker Gwen Jackson. She is a missionary with Global Partners and also wrote a book called Unforced Rhythms, why daily devotions aren’t for all of us. Instantly I got excited! (an odd thing to get excited about I understand!) She proceeded to tell us about the life experiences she had leading up to this revelation, “not every Christian does devotions or quiet time with God the same way.”
“I had a freedom that empowered me to connect with God and others naturally and authentically. This freedom came to me bit by bit, through a series of life experiences, a new understanding of Scripture, and an acceptance of my uniqueness, which gradually released me from the pressure to follow a formula or set of rules.” –Unforced Rhythms pg. 35
My motto for the last 12 years of my life has been, Grace not Perfection. This is because I struggle with being a perfectionist in every facet of my life. This includes my daily devotions and “quiet time” with God. Granted, this is not something I realized I was doing because it has been in-grained in me my whole life. “Don’t forget to do your devotions today,” said my mom. I bought several daily devotionals that I could never remain consistent in, no matter how hard I tried. I would “make up” the days I missed and double up, because that’s what a good Christian would do. I would ask for forgiveness for allowing my priorities to get out of alignment and vow to do better next week. All of my adulthood I have been trying to wake up an hour earlier than I needed to, so I could have at least 30 minutes in the word, for some reason that seemed like the measurement of what a “good seasoned Christian” should do….not to mention being a pastors wife. Add on more self-inflicted expectations and guilt because I definitely wasn’t doing enough to be worthy as a pastor’s wife. Unfortunately, as confident as I was in my faith and relationship with God, I had this lingering question…
How could I lead others in their relationship with God, when I seemed to fail daily?
It never sounded silly until I was venting about these expectations, I had of myself and the anxiety it produced, to my counselor. She just looked at me and said, “That doesn’t sound realistic.” I was like, “Well I know, but it’s what I am supposed to do as a Christian. I’m just not disciplined enough yet, but I want to be, that’s why I’m here…” She said, “How often are you consistent in doing your daily devotions every week?” Due to the compliant nature in me, I felt guilty saying this…but 3 was my number. I could adequately say, “I open my bible about 3 times a week, intentionally.” She said, “OK, make that your goal.” I immediately felt a burden lifted off of my shoulders because someone told me it was OK not to be perfect.
Although that feeling did not last for long. I still had an internal battle when I had a “break” at any point in my day I would feel as though “I need to do my devotions.” Not that I wanted to or felt God prompting me to prayer. It was guilt driven, and I knew that shouldn’t be how it was, but I couldn’t reconcile having anxiety over trying to do something so “good.”
I understand some people are morning people, actually I don’t think I will ever understand this, but I admire you. If you are this person and are able to have daily habits that are “freeing” to you, by all means don’t stop! But if you are like me, find it a daily struggle, are guilt ridden and as Gwen says, “become consumed with the ‘every day,” hear me when I say, it doesn’t have to be that way!
“God offers each one of us grace in our lives, he offers us grace in love. A love not based on performance. We can find freedom to live outside of a performance-based faith.”-Unforced Rhythms pg. 41
What I found freeing was Gwen talks about 3 different life rhythms. Yay! We don’t all have to fit into perfect Christian box!! You can take this assessment to find which life rhythm you typically lean into. When she listed the 3 areas I immediately knew which one I lean into more often than not, and that is weekly/monthly. I aspire to be a daily person, but that has never fit my personality and now I know it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You may be a daily person, weekly/monthly like me, or have a natural seasonal/yearly rhythm.
Either way, the goal of our lives as christians is to show our faith in love. Not out of our performance or checking off a spiritual to-do list. I hope that this resource helps you as much as it has already helped me.
“Find the spiritual beat that matches the rhythm of your soul.” -Gwen Jackson