My sense of rhythm is less than great. Even though I play the guitar and love music, I struggle to keep good rhythm. It shows up in my awkwardness on a dance floor. I keep telling myself that no one is paying attention to me, but I am still self-conscious. Everyone has their issues!

Fortunately, I can survive my off-beat timing on a dance floor, but when it comes to daily planning and scheduling, rhythm is critical. A smooth flow not only makes the day pass more enjoyably, but also makes the day more fruitful. Rhythm is comprised of sound and space. You can’t keep rhythm to a drum roll because there is no space. Nor can you develop rhythm if there is no beat. Rhythm is created by the speed and variety of sound and space.

Growth happens best in the rhythm between activity and space. Many of us operate with schedules that resemble a perpetual drum roll. There is no space, only exhaustion from trying to maintain an unsustainable pace. A few others have so much space in their lives that there is no rhythm, which means there is no music. My guess is that both types envy one another.

There is a rhythm that creates the beat of growth. It incorporates elements of both sound and space. At times, that rhythm might be faster or slower, but if we eliminate either sound or space, we miss the music. What is the rhythm of growth?

The first element is linger. So many people hit the ground running at a sprint each day. Even those that have a morning routine often plow through that routine as if it is a workout, check it off the list, and move on to what they believe is the important stuff. Each day would be so much more enjoyable if we would take a few minutes to relax, slow down and linger. A few slow minutes to start the day pays delightful dividends that last throughout the day. In that time, our mind settles and many of the best thoughts and intentions surface. When we choose to always be productive, we stay in a rigid box that inhibits growth. In this counterintuitive way, productivity stunts growth. Space opens possibility. Lingering is my way of enjoying space. If we are really bold, we might add a few moments to linger throughout the day: a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee or a few minutes to delve into a book.

The second element is labor. Frankly, I enjoy the lingering so much that I could fill my day that way. But labor gives purpose to lingering. Even in our labor, we benefit if we incorporate rhythm. Wall to wall meetings exhaust. With a little forethought, we can make our days flow by varying the kind of work we do. This may seem difficult, but in our lingering we step back and find creative ways to make our laboring more meaningful and more enjoyable.

The final element, which serves as an umbrella, is listen. We listen for the still, small voice of God that often we won’t hear unless we are lingering. We may not always be able to tell whether the thoughts are our own random musings or something more, which is why it is so important to have time and space to discern. We listen to the message spoken in our activities. Often, we glean life-altering insights when we listen to our labor.

The rhythm of linger, listen, labor serves as a framework in which growth naturally occurs. That rhythm is like tilling soil so that plants can grow. Many people have a desire to grow but are not tilling the soil in which growth comes naturally. In our culture, laboring comes naturally. The choice to infuse each day with time to linger and listen is what is counter-cultural. Yet, this is the choice that will alter the trajectory of growth.

The Rhythm of Growth – Linger, Listen, and Labor.

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