Matt 14:23 “And after Jesus sent the crowds away,
he went up the mountain by himself to pray.
When evening came, he was there alone.”
Exodus 20: 8-10 “‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Six days you shall labour and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.
On it you shall not do any work.”
In the last year I’ve been working with a spiritual director, delving into a lot of my often painful story. I looked at my life now, and didn’t entirely like what I saw. I mean, there was a lot of good in my life, achievements, skills, character, healthy and strong relationships. But the problem was this was undermined by the very structure of my life, but some core attitudes and damaging beliefs about myself – which I had no idea I even had.
And these had impacted the thing which makes the real difference to your daily life. The foundations of an emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally healthy lifestyle.
Our routines. Our rhythms. The tapes which play silently in our head, sometimes beyond our reach.
For me, I had somehow taken responsibility, as a child, for my parents and sisters lives – which meant when my parents marriage fell apart, and my mother died, on some subconscious level I blamed myself. I blamed myself for not being able to save them. For not protecting them.
And somewhere inside I decided to punish myself. My spiritual director said that I was, essentially, “sending myself to hell”, which I believed I deserved.
So the routines I got into were negative ones. Almost zero self-care, even in a basic way, which made me not pleasant to be around. Over-eating and getting addicted to sugar, which saw my weight balloon. Anger, bitterness, resentment – which I had thought was towards God, but was actually more directed at myself.
I became an expert at self-sabotage. I learned how to push anyone who got close to me away, in subtle, passive-aggressive ways. I even began a campaign to push God away from me. I became lazy in order to sabotage my working career.
Looking back, those days, around 10-15 years ago, were much darker than even I realised. And people who didn’t know any better thought this was just who I was. Even my family didn’t really have a frame of reference. So this became my identity.
And so the rhythms I had, defined my life. They defined my relationships, my work, my faith, my attitudes. I knew no different – even I thought this is who I was.
Because when you train yourself into a rhythm it becomes second nature, so much so that it becomes instinctive.
Over the years I lost a lot of these behaviours. I practiced self-care, I worked harder, I invested in myself, I allowed people into my life, I let go of many of the stories of the past. I changed my rhythms, my habits, my attitudes…and I changed with them. I matured as a man, as a writer and a follower of Jesus.
And in the last 18 months I’ve done internal work to the point where we’re getting to the root core of these old stories. Why I told them to myself. So now, the wounds are exposed. I’m still holding on to a couple of unhealthy rhythms, especially the overeating, and not having healthy spiritual practices, and still not practicing healthy sabbath, disconnecting from the world and recharging fully – all of which as the scriptures above say, Jesus Himself practiced. To model them to us, and so He could embrace fully the destiny and calling God had for Him.
I know I need to let the old rhythms go. And part of me is afraid to do so, because the man I’d become without them, and with healthy rhythms in their place, is someone I’ve never been. — and because maybe I’m scared of who I could be and what I could do if I did let them go.
Bad rhythms can be a comfort zone. No matter how far along you are on the journey, sometimes it can be easier to stay in a bad rhythm even though you know it’s damaging, than enter into a new one which might radically transform your life.
But this is what Jesus calls us to do. To lay down the old life, and to risk stepping into the rhythms of the vibrant, full life He has for us.
The challenge for us is, are we willing to lay down our old, unhealthy rhythms, and risk stepping into some new, and potentially life changing practices instead?