Unforced Rhythms of Grace

(reflection from Annik Laroche Bradford)

In a few short months, Shane and I will be completing our first year as nomads. It seems almost impossible. Didn’t we just leave a few weeks ago? However, a quick look back into my head-full of stored memories and I’m reminded of the very busy year we’ve just had. It truly has been a wild (but wonderful) ride!

I have spent the last two months in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My original plan was to head out to Austria with Shane for a three month housesit, but God had other plans. In November, we started talking with the Business as Mission Resource Team, a Christian organization here in Chiang Mai dedicated to promoting business as a legitimate and desirable avenue for ministry. We felt that it was the right time, and we decided to join their team for a year. Shane is therefore in Austria, keeping our promise to the homeowner, and I am in Thailand.

Since arriving in January, God has put people on my path who have shaken my foundations as a Christian, as a person, as a wife and as an entrepreneur. I am finally starting to understand why I had to go through certain things over the last few years, how all my experiences (good and bad) have a purpose and how, when God decides it is time to do so, you can finally connect several dots in your life which did not previously make sense. My assumptions are being brought to light, my desires are being overturned, and new ideas are coming into my head.

While I was home in Montreal this past December, I heard a sermon about Advent. It emphasized the importance of rest if we want a healthy life. Six days of work, one day of rest, that was God’s plan. Not only did God instruct us to set aside the “Sabbath” so we could be reminded of Him, but He also knew that our bodies and brains needed it. Without rest, humans tend to become desensitized, form bad habits and fall into routine. We lose our capacity to notice. To notice the good, the bad, the new … or anything, really! Rest gives us a chance to break the cycle and find equilibrium again. Life is all about balance after all, isn’t it? Without rest, we start thinking that working at all hours of the day or on weekends is normal. We accept the idea that spending 40+ years of our life working our souls away—so we can buy a house, a new car or more things to put in storage—is a worthy goal. We start thinking that we deserve a vacation because “we work so hard” and that being too busy to invest in our church, our friends or our family is normal. It is not normal! It is not what God wants from us. We are all Martha’s, doing things and keeping busy, thinking we’re doing the right thing. Meanwhile, God is looking for Mary’s, listening and waiting on Him. I want to be a Mary.

In Greek, there are two words for “time”. One is “chronos”, which we know well and use every day; the other is “kairos”. Chronos is the chronological, sequential passing of time. The minutes that moves forward, the hours that pass, the slowly, incessant march forward. It refers to the measured, quantitative duration of an event, to the unstoppable force that makes us a little older every day. Kairos, however, is a moment in time. That opportune moment when everything changes. The tipping point where nothing will ever be as it was before. Kairos moments are rare and unpredictable. They are invigorating and life-defining. I was recently reminded that God is in charge of the kairos. He intervenes or uses precise moments in our lives to forever alter what was there before. I, on the other hand, am in charge of the many, many chronos moments of my life. My job as a child of God is to be faithful, day in and day out, with the little things. I must be a good steward of the money He provides, of the time He gives, of the relationships He has put into my path and of the skills He has given me. I must do the best I can with what I have while I wait on Him for His input. Obedience in the everyday things paves the way for the kairos moments.

I went for dinner with a new friend about two weeks ago. As I was sharing my heart with her, she asked if she could read me Matthew 11:28–30 in The Message version. I had never heard this version before. It is beautiful:

28–30“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Spending three months away from Shane has not been easy for me. I miss him every day, but God knew that I needed to find Him again. I needed time with my Creator. In the last few years, I had not taken enough rest. I had lost my balance. I had started to think that I could do it all. That I was strong enough to keep my life under control. That sheer determination could make things happen. Even worse? I didn’t realize I was thinking that way until I was shown otherwise. Until I took the time to listen. And I only started listening when I took the time to rest. And that’s the thing with rest: If you don’t willingly take the time to slow down, your body will remind you…

Last August, I had a miscarriage. It was fairly early and so I did not think too much about it, at the time. I knew many women have had one. I understood that it’s a normal process when one is trying to conceive. The problem is that, from that point on, I started having panic attacks. It took me a while to understand what was happening. Until that point, I had always been strong enough to do it all. Why would it be different now? In the last two months, however, as I’ve come to be reminded that I am not in control—and that I don’t need to be; my panic attacks have almost completely stopped. It may seem counterintuitive: I have no idea what’s ahead for me or for Shane and I. I can’t say with any certainty where we’ll be in a few months or what we’ll be doing. I hesitate to make any plans past the next few weeks. I have never been so unsure of what lies ahead. Yet, I feel more settled right now than I have in a long time. I am not fighting it. I am reminded daily, in a million little ways, that God is in control. And the more time I spend with Him, the less I worry. I am learning the unforced rhythms of grace… And it’s a beautiful, beautiful lesson!

I hope everyone back home is doing well. We pray for you. Please continue to pray for us as well. We put photos and videos on our Facebook page (facebook.com/offwego.ca) or on our blog (offwego.ca), if you want to follow along. And we have a guest room ready for you if happen to come by Chiang Mai!

God bless,

Annik

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