When I think of what it means to thrive, I think of individual moments: that moment in the restaurant, at the table, by the lake, along the path, in the meadow, at the foot of the mountain, on top of the mountain, during the sunset – in that precise moment when you’re with people you know and love when you realize that you’d rather be with them, right there, right then than with anyone else, at any other time, at any other place on the planet. To thrive is what you feel, what you know, what you’re convinced of when you look around the room and know that you are more fully alive and fully yourself in that moment than before.
When I talk about thriving rhythms, I think about what it means to be intentional about living into a particular series of life rhythms which helps us bring our best to each encounter with the world around us. When we move with thoughtful purpose toward a deepened sense of identity – that we are purposefully spirited, creative, connected, present, grateful, generous, and missional people – we discover new ways of thriving in life.
This thriving rhythms journey – this blog and the Rhythms Podcast – intends to explore how these particular rhythms can continue to redefine, reinvent, and reinvigorate us in ways that clarify identity, illuminate purpose and sustain thriving lives.
Asking the question “What does it mean to thrive?” really goes back to the Fall of 2016 when three events took place within three months that necessitated a reframing and forced a reimagining which finally led to turning point. I’ve often referred to those three events as Catalytic Moments. The first moment took place in August while hiking 150 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail along Lake Superior. The second happened in September when I was hit by a drunk driver and totaled my truck, but was able to walk away without any physical injuries. The third moment came one month later in October when my father died at the age of 92. A full, well-lived life for which we all gave much thanks. And yet, any combination of two of those events might have been “doable,” but all three just seemed to push me over the edge. I remember returning to work in the days that followed my dad’s memorial service, sitting in my office and struggling to concentrate. I had to sort out a few things. And that led to one of the most courageous decisions any of us can make in those times: I headed for a counselor. And in the weeks that followed, the two of us were able to identify several key pieces in the emotional jigsaw puzzle that I was working on.
Along Comes a Story
One of those key pieces came in the form of a story.
In the first century, a rabbi was journeying back to his home after tending to some business in a nearby town. Late in the day, a storm was rapidly approaching. By evening the clouds were rolling in and the wind was howling. As darkness fell, the rain intensified. The rabbi approached a fork in the road (because in these stories there’s always a fork in the road, right?). The left fork would lead him to a military outpost while the right fork would lead him toward his village. In the confusion created by the storm the rabbi mistakenly took the left fork. Sometime later he found himself at the wall of the outpost and needing shelter for the night he began to pound on the large front gate. A soldier from the tower called out to him,
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
The rabbi didn’t answer. The soldier called out again,
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
This time the rabbi called back to the soldier,
“Who do you work for and how much are they paying you to stand there?”
The soldier, a little taken aback by the question, told him who he who he worked for and how much he got paid.
The rabbi then said to him,
“I will pay you twice that much to come to my house every morning and ask me those same questions.”
The story reveals two essential questions for every one of us.
The first question: “Who are you?” is essentially a question of identity. Answering the question, “Who are you?” can be an extremely complicated. And of course, there isn’t just one response. Every time we turn the gem of our lives even just a bit—as the light of understanding continues to bring illumination, we discover new ways to understand ourselves. “Who are you?” is the question of your identity and people have been asking this question since the dawn of time.
The 16th century mystic saint, Teresa of Avila probably said it best: “You are the presence of Christ in the world—who has no body now but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours—yours are the eyes through which Christ looks with compassion on the world. Yours are the feet with which Jesus walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which God blesses all the world.”
The second question: “What are you doing here?” is the question of purpose. Humankind’s search for meaning has always led to “the purpose question.” And that, too, is extremely complicated.
Teresa of Avila continues… “You are here to reach across the gap – across the chasm into the life of someone in need. You are here to be the hands, the feet, the eyes—the body of Christ, because Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
But there is a third question. “Where are you going?” And this is the question about our mission.
And our mission is the outward expression of our identity and our purpose.
Seven Essential Rhythms
So I’ve begun to ask these three questions of myself on a regular—often times daily basis: Who am I? What Am I Doing Here? Where am I going? And all of this has led me to explore some of the essential roles in my life and that exploration has led me to seven specific roles, or, what I call essential rhythms. Here they are:
I am a Spirited person: a child of God, a pastor, a follower, a leader.
I am a Creative person: a musician, a cook, a song writer, a writer.
I am a Connected person: a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend.
I am a Present person: I am here, I am showing up to this very moment in a way that helps me experience the gifts in this one moment.
I am a Grateful person: I practice gratitude which leads me to deeper expressions of thanksgiving.
I am a Generous person: I seek lavish interactions with the world around me in order to bring fullness and wholeness to the lives of others;
I am a Missional person: I embrace a vision for live and aliveness for all people.
When all of these rhythms are activated, there is a kind of hum that takes pace. There is a healthy vibration, a frequency, a resonance, a sense of thriving in life.
All of that lead to several more questions:
- What does it mean to thrive spiritually – as a spiritual/spirited person?
- What does it mean to thrive creatively – as a creative person?
- What does it mean to thrive relationally – as a connected person?
- What does it mean to thrive – as a fully present person?
- What does it mean to thrive – as a grateful person?
- What does it mean to thrive – as a generous person?
These are the questions we’ll be asking; seeking understanding and clarity.
May you thrive, may you be embraced by that moment in the restaurant, at the table, by the lake, along the path, in the meadow, at the foot of the mountain, on top of the mountain, during the sunset. May you be embraced by that moment when you’re with people you know and love when you realize that you’d rather be with them, right there, right then – than with anyone else, at any other time at any other place on the planet. May you be embraced by what you feel, what you know, what you’re convinced of when you look around the room and know that you are more fully alive and fully yourself in that moment than ever before.