If we think we are okay with a less structured schedule, one way to test that is to think about our reaction when someone in our lives does something differently or at a different time.
We might discover that we are in a better place when there is some predictability in the rhythm of our days.
I’m a fairly structured person, but one who likes some free-flowing times here and there. How structured am I? Even after retirement I keep a calendar for appointments and to remember birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions. If I get a call to change one of those scheduled times, I can most often accommodate the change and yet I am not usually excited to do it.
There is a rhythm to my days and weeks and in retirement I like to make sure those things that matter most to me can happen with regularity and without getting shifted much. They got squeezed and sometimes deleted for many years and now I choose to value and prioritize them.
Many persons who work shifts find challenges in their rhythm changing. A social person who enjoys gardening and getting together with friends can feel pretty upended if their employment position requires them to work at night and sleep during the day. The things they love are not going to fit very well and they can feel disgruntled.
You can get that sense with the rhythm of the school calendar as well. More than a few parents prefer the school year rhythm – not just because the children are out of the house, but because it sets a more predictable ebb and flow of each week. (especially bedtimes) That allows everyone to be clearer on what they can plan to do and when it fits. Summer schedules are fun but can also feel like a whirlwind.
New retirees who have worked all their lives have worked within a scripted planner to varying degrees. When retirement comes and they now have the freedom they were looking forward to, some express a sense of uncertainty about what to do to fill their days after the novelty of the first few weeks has worn off. For those whose careers gave them little time to develop their hobbies and passions, it can be even harder.
When someone goes off script too much of the time, most of us feel unsettled.
No one did that quite as effectively as Jesus in his earthly ministry.
Think how many times He did what no one expected. It’s little wonder the religious leaders of the day doubted He was the Messiah. He wasn’t acting in the way they expected. He chose common men and women to be closest to Him including the 12 He chose as disciples instead of choosing the religious scholars of the day.
It happens over and over again. He spends all day teaching a multitude and then asks the disciples to come up with a lunch for them when there is only one boy with five loaves and two fish.
Jesus is walking on the road to Jerusalem passing through Jericho and a short wealthy tax collector wants to get a glimpse of this Jesus and runs ahead and climbs a tree to get a better view. Jesus sees the man in the tree, calls him down and says He is going to the house of this Zacchaeus. Calling out a tax collector perched in a tree and inviting yourself to his home is certainly going off script.
Then there was that day where the religious of the day took a woman caught in the act of adultery and prepared to stone her as the law required. This was a grievous sin after all, but when Jesus came on the scene He stooped down and wrote something in the dirt for those who had stones in their hands to read. Whatever He wrote, it caused them to drop their stones and walk away and Jesus told the woman He forgave her. Who could have seen that coming?
At the end of another long day of teaching Jesus tells the disciples He needs some time alone and goes off into the mountain to pray. They head out across the lake in a boat to meet Him on the other side and an incredible storm starts rocking the boat to an extent even these seasoned fishermen are afraid. Who could have expected to see Jesus walking on the rough waves to rescue them?
Passover and the traditional Passover Seder was a special observance that everyone grew up knowing. The same foods were served in the same order, the same prayers were said as the history of the first Passover was observed.
When Jesus told Peter and the disciples to meet Him for this Passover Seder, they have no idea it will be different or that we will forever remember it as The Last Supper. Jesus went off script again at an observance they would likely have experienced with Him before. He washes their feet and takes on the role of a servant, lowering Himself before them. It’s little wonder the disciples are bewildered and struggled with what He was doing. Peter even insists He not do this thing and misses the point.
You see when Jesus went off script, He showed love in ways that caught them off-guard. Moment by moment when Jesus was with them, He was not just teaching the gospel, but living it out. He was reminding them of the humble positions He was calling them to take when He ascended into heaven and entrusted them with the gospel and told them to build his church.
It can be easy for us to fall short in our understanding of spiritual formation. Reading and reflecting on the life of Peter in The First Breakfast, I was reminded again as the authors (Eric and Kristen Hill) wrote these words:
“Incredible spiritual formation happens in us when we recognize that we genuinely are unworthy to have Jesus wash our feet, but in His posture of grace, He kneels before us and washes them even still. Once that realization begins to take root in us, only then can the gospel of His great love and grace come alive in us. Even if we don’t understand it all just yet, the way forward to be with Jesus comes only in a posture of surrender. Only then can the unworthy soul begin to feel its worth in Christ alone.”
He is demonstrating in his actions how little they understood what love means in a myriad of ways and we miss it as well far too often. He catches us by surprise as we glance out our window at sunset on a winter’s evening and the sky is awash in reds, golds, purples, and yellows. We have seen many lovely sunsets, but He arrests our attention again.
He also models how He would have us show love and how that can happen when we go off script as He leads us.
Nothing is the same in a life when Jesus goes off script to reveal the truth and love we would otherwise miss.