© 2011 David's Harp and Pen
DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from any irate Rush fans. If Neil Peart, the band’s lyricist, is kind enough to leave his songs open to the listener’s interpretation, then so should all of you.
I began 2011 in a most joyful and unexpected manner: a kiss shared with a handsome gentleman (and I don’t mean my dog, Bruno, either). The last time I had a New Year’s kiss was New Year’s of 2000, and I think that was only because we were all so grateful the over-hyped Y2K apocalypse had failed to materialize. Needless to say, I had envisioned this year going much differently than it has, not just in the aforementioned kissing department, but also with a number of other things. Allow me to explain.
In December, as I prayed about what God wanted me to do in the coming year, I felt that getting in shape was to be a top priority. I enlisted some help from a trainer, who advised me, among other things, to use an elliptical machine. Since part of God’s provision was a free health club membership, I knew this was something I must do. However, I had not done well with going to the gym in the past, mostly because my health had not been up to it, nor did I like the repetition of the routines, which bored me to tears. I felt very strongly, though, as the New Year approached, that God really wanted me to press through with the new fitness regimen, and I thought this time around, it would be different, which it was. However, it wasn’t in the way I expected.
The New Year, along with the new exercise routine, brought some unexpected opportunities and challenges. I had a relapse with an ongoing health problem. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had stopped responding to the medication I had been taking for the last 18 months, and tests from my doctor would later prove to be inaccurate. I felt horribly weak and “foggy” in my thinking all the time. Several dear friends began to experience life-altering circumstances, which God asked me to help them walk through. A new business venture I felt called to embark on got off to a very rocky start. God brought some seekers into my life into whom I have poured a lot of myself. And in keeping with tradition, I lost an aunt I loved greatly and a dear friend within two weeks of one another. Life was once again full of triumphs and tragedies, with the tragedies, as usual, hitting all at once. As happy as I was to serve my friends and be Jesus to those who do not know Him, in many ways, I felt as if I was ministering from an empty vessel. Feeling emotionally and physically drained, the last thing I wanted to do was go to the gym and get on the elliptical machine every day. But because I felt so strongly that I needed to follow through with what I felt was God’s leading me to do, I went anyway. Turns out I got more than I bargained for on that one.
My first time on the elliptical machine, I spent 30 minutes, and when I got off, I collapsed. My legs became the consistency of whipped cream, except not as firm. I resolved, however, I would remain undaunted, and even if I didn’t accomplish anything else in the day, I would get on the elliptical.
About two weeks into it, my workouts took on a different tone, mostly because I got a new cell phone that had an mp3 player built in, allowing me to listen to music and sermons as I exercised. As I would crank the praise tunes, the workout room turned into the Throne Room, and as I pushed myself more and more physically to the tune of the goodness of God, the term “sacrifice of praise” took on new meaning. What I noticed most, though, was how I was paying more attention to the beats and cadences of everything around me. It began with the “whoosh, whoosh” of the elliptical pedals as they rise and fall on the wheel. What had begun as annoying pulse turned into an enchanting lilt.
Pressing into the New Year, and putting my hands to so many different ploughs, my time on the elliptical proved to be a prayerful, praise-ful refuge, and the meter of the machine’s movements continued to provide me with an unusual and mysterious reminder of God’s presence.
The year after I graduated high school, a friend of mine introduced me to the band Rush. As a band, Rush is loved and respected the world over for its lyrics and musicianship. Their drummer, Neil Peart, is certainly no exception. Many of their songs will go through multiple complex time signature changes, which, in the hands of lesser musicians, would sound like a desperate cacophony. However, they have pulled off these intricate rhythmic arrangements time and again in the duration of their almost four decades together as a band, and the beauty of the cohesiveness of such mind-blowingly diverse rhythms presented in the course of a single song never ceases to amaze me.
One night in recent days, I broke out a Rush CD. It had been a whirlwind of a day: the completion of my fireplace project, a minor car accident, news of my friend’s death, and an intense evening of ministry with a dear friend who needed to be talked down from the proverbial ledge. I listened to one of my favorite Rush songs, entitled “Mystic Rhythms.” When I heard the song, I felt that pull and that presence that, over the last few months, had become so familiar and soothing to me. Some of the percussion in the song reminded me of the rhythms of the elliptical machine. I thought back to the advent of 2011, and the sweet kiss that had filled me with hope. Then my mind regressed even further to my last boyfriend. One of my favorite memories of him was when we would stay up late to talk, and in those late night hours, when at times I felt frustrated, sad, or simply restless, he would pull me close to him, put my head to his chest, and I would listen to the smooth, steady beat of his heart. The sweet memory of a heart that at one time beat for me. The haunting, intrusive-yet-inviting syncopations of Neil Peart’s words and percussion. The almost tangible sensation and sounds of the elliptical circling under my feet. I was overwhelmed.
At that moment, I realized why something like the sound of an exercise machine, a noise which, a year ago, would’ve driven me crazy, had become for me a life line: the steady up and down pulse was an echo of the heartbeat of God. That heart which beats surely and steadily. That heart which beats in every season of my life, and no matter how complex, erratic, and out of control the rhythms of my life seem, that heart is ever vigilant to drive those syncopations into harmony with His, making my life a sweet, joyful song that shows the beautiful music is His doing and not mine.
Change is on the horizon for me. New ministry opportunities, both informal and organized, are opening. God is asking me to do something without telling me the purpose or the outcome. As I stand at the precipice, make preparations, and set my face to the wind, I hear that lovely rhythm in my spirit, reminding me that in the symphony of my life, the Lover of my soul is the Conductor, keeping perfect time, and resolving every downbeat.