By Christine Aroney-Sine
Can you imagine a God who dances with shouts of joy, laughs, plays, goes to parties, enjoys life, and invites us to join the fun? I couldn’t until recently.
Like most of us, I grew up with a very serious, workaholic God who chastised me for not keeping busy 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Even though I knew this was not what God intended for me, I felt guilty when I slowed down, took a break or just went out and had some fun.
Sound familiar? Most of us still believe in a workaholic God and pace our lives accordingly. Church planters and leaders of small congregations are particularly vulnerable as peoples’ expectations could easily keep us all busy 24 hours a day.
What Kind of God Do We Believe In?
Imagine what our lives would look like if they really flowed to the rhythm God intends for us. Imagine what a sustainable pace that allows time for work and rest, solitude and community, fasting, feasting and fun would look like. These are some of the thoughts that revolve in my mind as I seek to live into a sustainable way of life. Sustainability is not about cutting back on consumption and work, though that can be an outcome. Sustainability is primarily about living into life as God intends it to be.
This is one of my ruling passions. I first grappled with it when I contracted chronic fatigue syndrome 25 years ago. I was sure that stress, overwork and burnout were the chief causes and in my recovery began to explore a more sustainable rhythm of life. My book, Godspace which gave birth to my blog, godspacelight.com explored the rhythms of Jesus’ life and the balance he seemed to find between work and rest, community and solitude, feasting and fasting.
Unfortunately that wasn’t enough. It was still easy for me in our work-oriented society to rationalize away the patterns that I felt God was leading me towards. Not surprisingly more overwork, stress and burnout followed.
Unless You Become Like Children.
Unless you become like children you cannot enter the kingdom of God. It was these words, which riveted my attention a couple of years ago that have helped change me.
What childlike characteristics make us fit for the kingdom? I posted this question on Facebook and slowly formulated a list:
awe and wonder,
love of nature,
Tragically we live in a world of play deprivation, nature deficits, awe and wonder depletion and compassion fatigue. No wonder we suffer from God deprivation too. No wonder our life rhythms are out of sync with God.
I am increasingly convinced that rediscovering our inner child is essential for our spiritual health. Awe and wonder, imagination and curiosity connect us to the God who is present in every moment and everything in a way that nothing else can. They enrich our contemplative core and expand our horizons to explore new aspects of our world and of our God.
Believing in a God who loves to get his hands dirty planting gardens, who makes mud pies to put on the eyes of the blind, and who does happy dances and sings with joy over all of humanity and in fact all of creation has revolutionized my faith. This is the theme of my book The Gift of Wonder, but here are a few of steps you can take now, or at least over the summer, to follow this path.
Read some children’s books – maybe get back to the favorites from your childhood, or ask your kids, grandkids or friends kids which ones they enjoy most. Read them together or if you don’t have kids and grandkids volunteer at the local library or with friends to read stories.
Spend time with kids – we all need kids in our lives and now that we are able to travel again most of us are looking forward to getting together with kids and grandkids. They ask us difficult questions and help us let go of our pretentious and often unrealistic expectations of ourselves and of others.
Reconnect to your senses – kids view the world through all their senses, but we adults often limit ourselves to sight and sound and even these senses have very confining borders. Rediscovering the joy of smells, the wonder of textures, the delight of sunlight through trees opens us to a God of delight and rejoicing, a God who invites us to relax, to just sit in contentment and wonder or allow ourselves to be distracted by the beauty of a butterfly.
How Sustainable is Your Rhythm?
I meet so many overworked, burnt out disillusioned church leaders who have lost touch with the God of balance and sustainability. Are you one of them?
Prayerfully reflect on your priorities and the rhythm that governs your life. Is this the rhythm God intends for you? How could you develop a more sustainable God blessed way of life?
The God of rhythm and balance
pace you with a flow of rest and work and enjoyment.
The God of fun and festivity
surround you with laughter and play and delight.
The God of life and love
enrich you with a future of satisfaction and joy and sustainability.
May you dance with the angels,
Shout with the children,
And sing with all creation,
Of the wonder of God’s love.
About the Author
Christine Aroney-Sine is a contemplative activist, passionate gardener, author, and liturgist. Christine loves messing with spiritual traditions and inspiring followers of Jesus to develop creative approaches to spirituality that intertwine the sacred through all of life. She is the founder and facilitator for the popular contemplative blog godspacelight.com. Her most recent book is The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God (IVP 2019). Christine has other garden and spirituality resources availableon her blog including a book To Garden with God and a course on Spirituality and Gardening on Thinkific.
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