Excerpted from Rhythms of Grace by Kerri Weems, copyright Kerri V. Weems.
When I was around nine years old, my mother decided I should take piano lessons. It made sense because I loved music and had been singing solos in church since the age of four. But singing was something I did for fun, and tiresome lessons and hours of practice did not sound like fun. Nonetheless, I dutifully attended my piano lessons. Much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. I really liked my teacher and I loved being able to play and sing at the same time.
One of the things I did not like, however, was the metronome — the little device that marked time with military precision to make sure I played to the right rhythm. Each time I sat down to play a piece I had been practicing, my teacher started the metronome. I tried to play according to its measured timing, but I almost never did it right. Sticking to the prescribed rhythm was hard! My teacher would gently correct me, “Kerri, that was very well done. You hit all the right notes. But your timing was off. You have to play in rhythm. If you don’t, the song will not sound the way it is meant to sound — the way it was written by the composer.”
I began to hate that little metronome. It was like a bossy babysitter — no fun at all. I didn’t understand why rhythm was so important. Even at nine years old, I could tell that although my rhythm was off in a few places, it was a far cry from ruining the song. And why did it even matter that I was playing it differently than the composer intended? It wasn’t like he was turning over in his grave when I butchered his masterpiece. What I didn’t realize at the time was that playing according to the composer’s intended rhythm is not so much for the times when musicians play their instruments alone, but for the times they play with other musicians or an orchestra. It’s the thread that ties all the individual pieces of the symphony into one, beautifully cohesive piece.
Rhythm, not melody, is what grounds the music and makes it possible for musicians to make music together. Of course, it’s usually the melody we love — that’s what gets stuck in our heads, what we sing in the shower, and what sometimes moves us to tears. But without rhythm, the notes that make up the melody would be bouncing all over the place. In an orchestra, the keys, the strings, and the wind instruments would have no reference point for when to play the notes. Instead of playing in a unified symphony, an orchestra without rhythm would be a chaotic jumble of individual interpretations of the score.
Sabbath is God’s metronome, marking out a weekly rhythm of rest and renewal.
It is our reference point for knowing how to plan and live our lives. Without the Sabbath, our lives are a jumbled mess of individual events; with Sabbath, they can be a beautiful balance of labor and rest.
Yet, just as I once found it difficult to play the notes of my music to the beat of the metronome, we can find it difficult to let the rhythm of Sabbath rest set the pace for our lives. So many other things seem like better, more comfortable metronomes. Shouldn’t our educational and career goals set the pace? Our kids’ activities? The church calendar? Those things are important and have a legitimate place in our lives, but they are the notes of the melody — the unique song of our individual lives — not its foundational rhythm.
Unless God’s rhythm of rest sets the baseline beat, we will miss the composer’s intent for our lives — and His intent is shalom. If we want to reclaim shalom, we have to let God’s metronome of Sabbath rest set the baseline beat of our life’s rhythm.
Shalom means peace but it also connotes personal wholeness, prosperity, harmony with oneself and with others, general welfare, and serenity. Doesn’t that sound good? God is so good and loves us so much that He ordained a Sabbath rest for us so we could experience shalom rest. Are you enjoying that gift of shalom by reserving a Sabbath day just for rest?