When I graduated from school I decided to take two gap years.
The first year, I did a ‘bible school’ – an intense year of learning about the bible and figuring out how to be a disciple alongside 39 others in my class.
The second year was in the same place but called ‘prayer team/volunteer team’ and consisted of daily common prayers 3-4 times a day, practical voluntary work on the grounds as well as one day a week spent with God in silence and solitude. It was quite a challenging year mainly because it was so boring and mundane compared to last year’s intense growth and new revelations of God through scripture. I kept struggling with not knowing what God was doing – was He even doing anything?
After this, I went to uni and found myself in a busy city and a busy time with all the work that comes with getting a degree. And I was still somewhat struggling with trying to understand what God was doing, but looking back now I see that the mundanity of the year before taught me to trust God in the simpler rhythms – it brought my roots deeper into the soil than the superficial ‘spiritual high’ which had been a big part of my experience before.
I know now there was something profound to be gained from the simple persistence in the rhythms of prayer, of solitude, of worship and bible reading. And as I found myself ‘running on ahead of God’ by quite a distance, the rhythms helped me to stop every so often and regain my focus. So that’s what I did through my uni years and am continuing with now because of the spiritual life it produces in me – it means me giving God the space and time to do the Holy Spirit’s work in me.
How can you do this practically? Third term and exam term might be a weird one, but it provides unexpected opportunities for rhythms. When you don’t have any lectures to go to, you can create other things to fix your work around. As you might have noticed, Study Space in St Oswalds Institute offers morning and evening prayers at the start and end of the day to frame revision by prayer – giving God the glory due in the work we do as well as pray he’d be near us. Maybe you can take regular breaks in your revision to pray for a minute or two, go for a walk to spend time with God or just put on some worship music and lie down. The bible speaks about even Jesus taking time alone to pray to the Father amidst a busy ministry (Mark 1.35).
Another really important rhythm is rest – taking a day off work can really help you do more efficient work the rest of the days rather than being exhausted from the previous week. Trust me, God knew what he was doing when he instituted the sabbath (Exodus 20.8-11), and even God himself rested in the seventh day of creation (Genesis 2.1-3).
The third rhythm I want to bring up is Scripture. Maybe you don’t really feel like starting a 1-year bible reading plan at the moment, but a daily digestion of Scripture is nurturing to our souls and spiritual wellbeing in every season. The psalms have several exhortations read scripture and meditate on what God has done regularly (Psalm 119.48, Psalm 77.11-12). If your head is jam-packed with information, maybe just read one verse, or listen to a reading from the bible app, or write a few verses down with a pretty font to let them sink through you.
All in all, there’s value in a rhythm, in giving God space to transform us.