There’s something about a pendulum that gets my attention. It fixes my gaze, almost hypnotically as it swings back and forward from one side to the other. There’s something about a pendulum as it manages to touch both extremes without ever favouring a side. There’s something about a pendulum as it creates and churns out a perfect rhythm without ever missing a beat, constantly correcting and re-balancing itself.
Perhaps as humans we naturally tend to jump to extremes. If we believe one thing to be the best approach, then the reverse is worthless. We champion one practice, at the expense of another. We scream that we have the answer and shout for everyone to abandon what they are doing and adopt the new approach. We see the flaws of previous generations and rush to become the opposite.
Yet more and more, I’m discovering that life as a follower of Jesus often looks like a swinging pendulum. Holding things of truth in tension, correcting imbalances that exist, and developing rhythms of our own.
Yes I love to worship, but I recognise the need to witness. My life is offensive to a perfect God, yet I can’t be any more loved by Him. I am called be involved in the world, yet I don’t want to be overly influenced by it. I understand the need for Christian community yet see the danger in being isolated from the world around me. I desire to have more information, yet I really desire transformation. There is always the danger in swinging too far one way, that I will lose something in the process.
The Early Celtic Christians had a beautiful rhythm of retreat and release. In certain seasons these early Celts retreated to be together and centre their life in community. During these times of retreat they developed patterns and habits that helped to develop the people around them. In their retreating and through their rhythms many new leaders were raised up, but they knew this wasn’t enough.
The Early Celts knew they were designed and called to more than retreat, and so in other seasons they released people from their community to go. These fresh leaders weren’t just raised up to be assigned to roles within their community, but rather they were equipped to create new hubs of mission outside of their community. Therefore, the rhythm of retreat was always for the purpose of releasing a fresh rhythm of mission in the world around them.
At times my life, my thoughts and my approaches are imbalanced. The desire to retreat from the out there and lose sight of the opportunities around me. Or the danger in becoming so consumed in activity out there that I lose sight of who I am and have been created to be. And so instead I need the pendulum, the correction that the life and person of Jesus brings me. The pendulum of Jesus that embraces the paradoxes of sinner and saint, worship and witness, retreat and release, and somehow holds them all in tension.
I want to end positively by saying that I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the church I’m a part of that places a high emphasis on worship, yet is passionate about reaching out. I’m thankful for the upbringing I had that provided me with so much knowledge in my head about God, but also modelled what that looked like in practice. And I’m thankful for the opportunities of retreat that renew me for my role in the world.