Department

Gerald A. Klingbeil

Associate Editor, Adventist Review

Stop the Clock!

We all have experienced moments of utter disbelief, when a certain piece of information we receive just doesn’t make sense. The sudden death of a beloved friend at 35 years of age. The senseless murder of people worshipping in a church. The unexpected and heartbreaking diagnosis of a teenager ready to conquer the world.

When life stands still and questions haunt our hearts, we wish we could stop the clock and gain perspective of things unspeakable and questions unanswer-able.

But then life reboots, and it’s back to normal again. We soldier on; we refocus our attention; we continue our journey. And, slowly but surely, we forget. We get sidetracked by the many screens surrounding us. We begin, once again, to rush at life and its big and small challenges.

Januarys are particularly susceptible to this cyclical behavior. As the old year ebbs away and we are surrounded by friends and family, we generally have a bit more time to reflect on and digest life’s curveballs. Often we commit to change (“I will hit 14,000 steps every day on my Fitbit” or “No more chocolates for me!” or “I will spend more face time with my wife”), yet struggle to makes these changes stick.

New Year’s resolutions, unfortunately, do not have a long shelf life. British researchers found that 63 percent of all respondents failed to keep a New Year’s resolution, and 80 percent of those did so within the first three months.1

We don’t need resolutions—we need a change of rhythm. Rhythm and measures help musicians to play together. Rhythm offers a healthy way to face realities and questions that go beyond our immediate comprehension. Rhythm is transforming in itself and helps us to remember what’s really essential.

I have written before about God’s Sabbath rhythm. Most of us have not (yet) really discovered its countercultural and radical power. It goes beyond a mere 24-hour period. It represents a pattern of life where I can step back and find healthy engagement, surprising resolution, true rigor, and sparkling joy in the great “Thou” waiting for me to slow down and pay attention.

So how do we move from resolution to rhythm? How can we pick up God’s rhythm in the midst of a noisy, distracting, and often disorientating world?

First, I need to start listening. Nehemiah 8 tells the story of God’s people coming together to listen to God’s voice found in His Word. For hours they listened in community, “And all the peoplelistened attentively to the Book of the Law” (Neh. 8:3). I wish I could have seen this..

Second, I need to express my distractions, frustrations, disappointments, and, yes, also joys in that quiet place before God. Some people like to write down their prayers; others enjoy walking in nature and speaking audibly. I have noticed that when I do this, I have more space for God and can listen more carefully to what He wants to impress on my heart. Listen—and talk; listen—and talk; listen—and only then talk. “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heardmy cry for mercy. Because He turned his ear to me, I will callon him as long as I live” (Ps. 116:1, 2).

That’s the kind of rhythm change that will survive more than three months. So stop the clock!


  1. https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2015/dec/31/how-long-do-people-keep-their-new-year-resolutions.
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