I recently retired after 46 years of pastoral ministry. Though the time was right, I had no idea the degree to which this decision was going to put me, "out of sync." This is a term I've encounter often through my computer use: I need to "sync" my Contacts with my message App. I need to "sync" my printer with my computer. I need to "sync" my photos with the "cloud.' The term is referring to a process whereby everything will work together in a coordinated way. Upon retirement, however, I soon realized that my life was no longer "in sync." This was largely due to the discovery that I had lost a sense of "rhythm" in my life.
I had never realized how important "rhythm's" are to one's life. For 46 years I had developed sort of a "life rhythm." There was a daily rhythm: I tried to begin and end each day with a time of Bible reading and prayer. At some point, each evening, I would spend some time praying with Kristi; after that I would spend some time reading. At some point, each day, I would try to visit with Beth and John. Upon retirement I have mostly been able to retain my sense of daily rhythm; but there was also a weekly rhythm and that is where things began to fall apart: On Monday I would select hymns, prayers, scriptures, and a Call to Worship, for the worship bulletin. On Tuesday I would deal with church and Conference business matters. On Wednesday I would outline my sermon and do some visits with church members. On Thursday I attended Ministerial Alliance, Kiwanis, or Methodist Men's group. On Thursday I would also try to "follow up" on visitors to the church. Friday was sort of a day off. On Saturday I did the final work on my sermon. Sure, there were weeks when funerals, weddings and other events changed the schedule. But for 46 years this had pretty much become my weekly rhythm. But there were annual rhythms as well: September involved Charge Conference preparation, October was the annual Stewardship Drive, November brought Thanksgiving and launched us into preparations for December and Advent. Throughout the years there was sort of a "cycle" to my life, and I realize now that it was this "cycle" or "rhythm" that kept my life in "sync."! But life is different now and I realize that though I hated the "stress" of Advent, I am going to miss the special services of worship I led and the Advent sermons I'm accustomed to preparing to share with our church family. So, I find myself at a stage of life where I am striving to find a new rhythm. I think the new rhythm will partly have to do with the continued development of my counseling practice. I'm hoping my new rhythm will be a result of my spending time with God and discerning His plan for me in this new season of life. I am also hoping that perhaps my new rhythm will begin to emerge as I journey through this season of Advent. In short - I'm praying that Advent will be a time for me to "re-sync!"...
Advent, this year, begins on Sunday, December 3. Advent, for Christians, marks the beginning of the liturgical year. Advent provides opportunity for many things: reflection, repentance, and especially, preparation. Advent is a season to experience the wonder of beautiful lights, manger scenes, prophetic texts, and marvelous hymns. It is a season in which we can be very busy but also one in which we are invited to "be 'still and know that I am God." Advent is a season that invites us find a rhythm that will once again put our life in "sync" with the God who "became flesh" among us.
One of my favorite verses of scripture is Psalm 31:14: "I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands." For me I think this means that we are called to trust God for each and every season of our life. But beyond that to realize that our "times are in God's hands" and, if this is so, we need to look to Him to find the rhythm of life that is just right for our present day. I think each new season of life (graduations, marriage, beginning a new job, celebrating our 1st child) probably requires our "looking to God" to lead us into a new life rhythm. But for those of us who presently feel a little bit "out of sync" I pray that Advent will bring us once again into the wonderful rhythm and flow of God's amazing grace!
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.