Learning the unforced Rhythm of Grace: Staying still, knowing, and finding your purpose.
Everyday we are drowned by emails, Facebook messages, Snapchats, and tweets. We are consumed by a man-made parallel world that takes up an average 5 years of our lives. With these 5 years, we could run 10,000 marathons and go to the moon and back 32 times. But, instead we choose to spend our valuable time on a world that is not even real. The situation is even worse among teens. Teens spend on average 9 hours of their day online. We are a generation enslaved by technology and our identities are defined by a non-existent parallel world. We have forgotten who we are… Or even worse, whose we are.
Instead of focusing on fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives, we obsess about creating an Instagram-worthy facade. We choose shallow over grounded, virtual over presence, Facebook friends over people right next to you. We have never been so connected, yet so alone. If you have not found your purpose, you may want assess how much time you have been dedicating to this virtual world. After all, finding your purpose takes faith, presence, and stillness.
Faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). If faith is unseen, but still evident, faith must be based on other senses, including listening. Blind people are known to have an acute sense of hearing because the brain has an innate capacity of reorganizing itself. Research shows that parts of the human brain normally dedicated to vision are taken over by hearing in the absence of sight. What would happen if you became blind to social media and developed an acute sense of God’s voice?
I retrained myself to listen to God’s voice by meditating in His presence. At first, meditation was a battle against my upheaval of thoughts. Now it is a place of refuge. I take 15 minutes every morning to sit in silence with my eyes closed. When my thoughts wander I go back to my word: Maranatha (Come, Lord!). After fifteen minutes, I feel renewed and refreshed. When I take a mental break through meditation, I am hit with epiphanies and overtaken by lightning strikes of Divine inspiration. If I miss my time with the Lord, I find myself in a creative desert. Recent research suggests that the downtime created by meditation is essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, encourage productivity and creativity, and help us achieve our highest levels of attention and motivation. Do you want to understand God’s purpose for your life? Take a break with Him.
Finding purpose also takes presence. If we must listen to God’s guiding voice, we must be present in His creation and pay attention to His signs. Take the time to be present where you are today. Take the time to fully listen to people around you, notice new details in old things, and feel the wind on your face. Above all: take time to soak in something you love doing. Have you noticed that when you do something you love, time stops and you become so entrenched in the activity that time stands still? That is true presence. Love to paint? Paint. Love to run? Run. Make time to be in love with God’s creation.
I rediscovered presence by doing what I love. I started teaching yoga at the Cook County jail in Chicago. Teaching yoga and dedicating my life to those women made me connect with God’s true purpose for my life. One day, God literally spoke to me as I exited the jail. He ordered me to act. I believe God gives you talents and passions for a reason. He wants to reveal His purpose for your life through something you love doing; something that comes as easy as the sunrise every morning. What makes your bones shriek and your heart skip a beat? Whatever that is, take the time to do it.
Finally, finding your purpose takes stillness. God tells us to “Be still and know that I am God”. People often confuse stillness with passiveness. Being still and knowing speaks to the power and security that can be found only while walking with God; not merely remaining in a passive state. The word still is a translation of the Hebrew rapa which means to slacken, to let down, or to cease. Being still means ceasing the inner worry, the anxiety. It means to work hard and do the best you can, knowing that God is your ultimate security.
There is a sweet spot between working hard and finding the path of least resistance. That sweet spot is what I call the unforced rhythms of grace (Mathew 11:28-38 MSG). It is a path God crafted just for you. I was trapped in the chaos of my life for so long I got used to fighting my way through life. Life is not meant to be a battle. One day I told myself, if it’s His will, it will be done. I finally let go of my plan and surrendered to His. I began tapping into the unforced Rhythms of Grace. I built a successful not for profit. The resources, the people, everything fell into place. Jesus did it for me when I removed myself from the equation. Let Him guide you. His plan is perfect. Live by faith. Take the leap. What doors is God opening for you today?
Izabel Olson, PhD, is the founder and executive director of Salt and Light Coalition. Recently, the Secretary of the State of Illinois selected Izabel to receive the Latino Humanitarian Achievement Award. Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Izabel amassed a background in the health and wellness sector that includes experience with dance, yoga, health coaching, and competitive body building. Izabel’s lifelong commitment to education and ten-year teaching career lead her to Northwestern University where she earned her Ph.D. in the Learning Sciences in 2014. Upon completion of her doctorate, Izabel decided that the best way to create an impact and change the world was by working locally at the grass-roots level. Having been a lifelong fitness enthusiast, she began teaching Holy Yoga at the Cook County Jail in 2015. In this role, Izabel found out that 70% of incarcerated women are survivors of trafficking. As she experienced first hand the benefits of meditation and trauma-sensitive Holy Yoga from the female inmates, Izabel felt the nudge to do something more meaningful by combining her background in education and passion for health and wellness. This was the beginning of the Salt and Light Coalition. Learn more at: www.saltandlightcoalition.com, Instragram: @saltandlightcoalition, Twitter: @saltandlightcoa, Facebook: Fb/saltandlightcoalition.