My post last week on giving the gift of grace really seemed to strike a chord with people, and for good reason. Not because it was well written, but because grace is the pulsing lifeline of the Christian life.

We’re pretty good at celebrating grace, that much is clear. We can sing about it, tweet it, Facebook it, and even sometimes give it away to others. What we need most often, though, is to figure out how to live in grace for ourselves. Our own journey into this grace-life, what the Bible calls “The new and Living Way” or “the Way of the Spirit” will take every decade we’ve been given and more.

Let me offer some help on that quest. I’d like to share five words with you: Disconnect, spontaneity, rhythm, routine, and religious rut. Individually, each
word embodies a distinct approach to the Christian life. Together, they form a kind of spectrum with extremes capping the ends. Those opposites are dangerous words, dangling their deadly carrots in hopes of shipwrecking a traveler’s faith. The word nestled in the middle—rhythm—describes an ideal experience with God (I’ll get into this later this week). Picture the spectrum placed along a pyramid, like the diagram to the right:

First, the extremes. No one wants to feel disconnected from God and the life he offers us. Neither does anyone wake up one day and resolve, “I think I’m going to slip into a religious rut.” But those extremes are all too easy to find and live in. Sometimes it feels like avoiding them is defying gravity.

I’ve been there, especially the religious rut extreme—shackled into the shallow prison of duty and obligation. It systematically killed my joy, stifled my vision, and nearly strangled my faith. After twenty plus years in ministry, I now believe most churchgoers live in a religious rut without realizing it. It’s like people lose hope that their faith can be more.

Think of a religious rut as taking your Christian life entirely into your own hands. Every shape your faith takes has been initiated by you, structured by you, perpetuated by you. Your faith is characterized by what I call “devotional correctness.” For a more vivid description of this disease, download my free ebook, “Finding Home,” in the right hand column on this blog.

Disconnect grows like mould on the opposite extreme. It thrives when there isn’t enough structure to sustain a life of faith, when faith never becomes works, when doctrine never catalyzes love or faithfulness. It’s an extreme passivity that feeds a fatal apathy. Eventually, we feel nothing, are stirred by nothing, do nothing—and wonder where the magic went.

I’m sure you can relate. I sure can. But can we avoid those extremes?

The answer is YES.

Jesus is holding my hand, walking me through it. I’m a recovering “religious rutter” gradually learning to live a dynamic rhythm on that precarious apex. What is this mysterious “rhythm”? And how do these five words fit together? I’ll try and articulate what I’m learning in my next post.