For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tea, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3.1-8
by Diane Thrush
God creates a rhythm, an ebb and flow, to life that we often forget in our multi-tasking, fast paced world. We are a people of agendas, schedules, and plans. That’s true also for our spiritual lives. We don’t understand that our spiritual practices are to be flexible, based on what we need at the time.
How often after a significant spiritual event we create a Rule of Life, a system of practices that work for us at the time. But, they aren’t supposed to be written in stone for the rest of our life. They are supposed to grow, mature, and change as we do. I wrote my first Rule after making a Cursillo when I was 30. By 40, my needs were different, and oh my goodness, at 60 I am so far removed from what I needed even at 50. Events change our needs, also. A year ago, what I needed was very different from what sustains me today.
Neither are our practices supposed to be cookie cutter plans that look like what someone else needs. That’s where discernment, wisdom and spiritual guidance come in. Our spiritual practices ought to reflect who we are in the time and place of the present situation. We can’t practice ‘one size fits all’ spirituality.
When I talk to people, I love to tell them I don’t journal and haven’t for years. It doesn’t work for me. But, there are many people like me who are trying to force themselves to journal. When they hear me say that I don’t, they feel free to quit trying to do it because they “should.”
This is also true of Sabbath time. The key to Sabbath is setting time apart to be with God. It does not lie in a set of rules to be rigidly followed because we are supposed to do this or that. What works for us to find a place apart with God? That too should change and grow as we do. What works for a young mother of toddlers is going to look very different for a widow in her 70s.
A few years ago, one of our churches did a Lenten series on Sabbath. The rector had a different speaker each week tell how they do Sabbath. I was the last speaker in the series. He told me he had been astounded at how diverse each speaker’s Sabbath time was structured. No one of us had the ‘right’ answers or schedules. We each had found what worked for us as unique and diverse Christians.
We are each called to find our own rhythm for the way we live out our faith. More often than not, that will require prayer and discernment, and above all, flexibility. “ A time for everything…”
Diane Thrush is a chaplain at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio TX. Reach her at diane.thrush@MHShealth.com.