“What if there were a rhythm of life that could enable us to deeply connect with God, a lifestyle not dominated by hurry and exhaustion but by margin and joy?”
On my pilgrimage through the book The Deeply Formed Life by Rich Villodas, this question snagged my attention. If you sped over it, take a moment to go back and read it again. Slowly. Let your imagination play with it for a moment or two. Can you sense how beautiful such a life would be?
The first value that Rich introduces for living in a deeply rooted way, is that of building a contemplative rhythm. He invites us to live in a way that isn’t consumed by the hurried and harried world, and impresses on us how important this invitation is.
“As long as we remain enslaved to a culture of speed, superficiality, and distraction, we will not be the people God longs for us to be.”
To teach us how to live in a slower, more contemplative way, Rich takes us to an interesting place—the monastery. He writes:
“Monastics remind us that the way of following Jesus requires a steadfast refusal to get caught up in the pace, power and priorities of the world around us. We are called to have our lives shaped by a different kind of power, pace, and priorities, offered to us by God.”
Initially, I was excited by the idea of slowing down and becoming more contemplative. As an author, I love solitude and silence and I honestly thought, “This is going to be easy. I’ve got this.”
I was wrong.
Rich proposes several practices or disciplines, including Sabbath-keeping, slow reading of Scripture, and Silent Prayer. In the latter, we give up words and simply ‘share presence’ with God. Sounds easy, right?
I’ve been trying this for the last 3 weeks or so, and have realised that even if I’m sitting in a quiet place, the inner noise of my mind is a barrier to simply ‘being with’ (and sensing or hearing from) God. It’s been valuable to realise my inner level of disquiet and the anxiety at its root. But because it’s been so difficult, I’ve struggled to keep up this practice. I find myself picking up my guitar and singing praise songs instead, or running down my list of prayer requests. Both valuable enough, but not that deep shared silence of a comfortable friendship with God.
As I write this, I sense a renewed invitation to try again, even if just for a handful of minutes. “Silent Prayer is not a technique to master but a relationship to enter into,” Rich writes. Much like the story of the prodigal son returning to his father, God is always for us and delights in us coming home.
Even when I feel like I’m not quite ‘getting it’, I draw comfort from Rich’s words:
“Any effort given to ordering my life around rhythms of silence, solitude, and prayer has significantly enriched my life.”
And every now and then I feel a tiny shift in my soul and know those words to be true.
There’s so much more to the two chapters on Contemplative Rhythms in the book, but on our shared pilgrimage the whirlwind tour of the monastery ends here. I know—the irony isn’t lost on me—that ‘whirlwind’ and ‘monastery’ shouldn’t be used in the same sentence. Perhaps that’s just another little reminder that I still have some way to go on my pilgrimage.
Ultreia et Suseia. Further and Higher.