Rhythms, Rituals, and Roots
I have thought a lot about what I want to share with you in this space. My journey in faith has been a series of ebbs and flows, ups and downs, mountains and valleys. Three things have kept me grounded: rhythms of grace, rituals of the faith, and the roots of my heritage in the church.
I know some of you are already doubting the validity of this column because of my shameless use of alliteration in the title; trust me, I am one of the many who despise sermon titles that all begin with the same letter because they seem *too* perfectly planned. But, contrary to my need to avoid things starting with the same letter, the “R” thing just happened to work for me here - so lets just go with it.
Rhythms keep us in patterns; think breathing in and out, waking up and going to sleep, or the rhythm of people and family in your life. These are daily patterns of grace that God has extended to us. Michael Gungor describes these patterns beautifully:
“I climbed up a lion of rock
There overlooking the swirls of the world
All the shifting of sands that I saw
Conflicting energy giving and taking,
The fluid grace of it all
Billowing shadows of clouds in the sand
While the waves lay down all stretched and taught
Folding and wrinkling back to the source of it all”
We have been given common graces too numerous to count from our Creator - especially the ones we do not see. When my faith seems to falter, coming back to the great rhythm of the creation helps me to see the big picture of what Christ is doing in the world. The flow of the ocean tide, the movement of clouds to rain to ground to vapor and back to clouds again, the circuitous nature of it all. Its beautiful really.
There are also daily graces that God give us within our rhythms. For me, those graces take the form of coffee, music, and trees.
Coffee is my morning grace. Every morning, I weigh out my coffee beans, grind them up, and make a Chemex of some of my favorite beans. I get to smell the coffee immediately after it grinds, take in the complexity, and then enjoy a warm cup of my favorite beverage. It reminds me to slow down and savor life, to be thankful for the small things, and ultimately, as cheesy as it sounds, it points me back to God.
For some people, these rhythms of grace might include a shared family meal, hanging on a patio with friends, hiking in the woods, swimming in the ocean, or playing with your kids. Anything that invites you back with its beckoning cadence.
These are the patterns of grace in creation - the beauty of God reflected in the great and small. Everything breathing together.
This word can sound stoic, old, and stodgy, but I have recently re-discovered its richness. Ritual, for me, is what grounds us to the church and what we do as the church.
You might think of your worship gathering as new, fresh, and completely devoid of ritual - and you would be absolutely wrong. Everything we experience in the church building is deeply rooted in tradition and rituals from the stage your pastor stands on to the inclusion of song to the pulpit to the way you baptize believers. Ritual has gotten a bad rap among evangelicals, but ritual has beauties and functions: it can serve to ground us to the beliefs we have, even when we are wavering.
Take communion, for example (or the Eucharist, depending on how your grew up). Even if you do not know what you believe in regards to how communion should take place (a topic we will tackle head on at some point in this column), we can all agree that communion serves to bring us closer to Christ through a shared experience in tradition with other believers. It is familiar, and sometimes familiarity is necessary for drawing us back into the family of Christ. That is ritual.
A ritual for me, deeply grounded in my upbringing as a charismatic, is a daily quiet time. Even though I despise this phrase “quiet time” (it makes it sound like a time-out or something), my daily time with the Lord is the most grounding ritual in my life. When I feel disconnected, depressed, or out of sorts, the way I find my path again is through this ritual. Prayer, bible reading, journaling - through up times and down times, this is how I find my way home.
Ritual, in this column, will refer to how we find Christ in traditions as well as what we do, or do not do, as the church. A discussion of ritual might include the expressions and habits of different denominations and how we arrived there or practices of the church and their merits. We might laugh. We might cry. We might let out sighs of joyous surrender as we figure out how we got to where we are as the church - this messy and lovely ride to redemption.
This word perhaps means more to me than anyone else in the world. Roots has been a word deeply tied to my vocation for the last seven years. But more than that, roots remind us of home and heritage. Roots are about where we have been and where we are going, and the journey that takes us all there.
Growing up in a Christian home - homeschooled with a pastor dad - has deeply etched my faith experience. I cannot detach myself from it, nor would I want to. My heritage of family and faith is who I am - the part I did not choose. And I thank God for it.
Throughout discussion of our roots, we can identify why we do the things we do, who our tribe is, and how we need to treasure our background, but also not be afraid to figure out who we are outside of it. You are going to hear my stories of growing up overseas in a tiny charismatic church pastored by my parents, church splits in middle school, and my dire mega-church days. We will talk about the good ol’ Christian music days (DC Talk & MWS, anyone?), homeschool stereotypes, and other things I lived through.
You will also hear the part of my story that is still journeying towards finding out what faith looks like - in light of my rhythms, rituals, and roots.