Rhythms of life

By Andy O'Connell

Lindisfarne causeway

Before our sabbatical, we consulted various people about their experience of and advice about sabbaticaling. Something about the early days of British Christianity, and in particular the Celtic missionary-monks in northern England, had piqued our interest, and we sensed that a visit to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (Northumbria) should form part of our sabbatical.

Friend and author Sheridan Voysey told us of his own pilgrimage to Lindisfarne - recounted in his insightful book The Making of Us - and he generously lent us a pre-publication copy.

We also read more about the life and ministry of Celtic monks Aiden, Bede and Cuthbert, in the book of that name by David Adam, one-time vicar of Holy Island. Aidan was sent from Iona to Northumbria in 635AD. Adam notes, keen for his spiritual leadership in the region to complement but to be be distinct from that of King Oswald, Aiden was looking for a suitable location to found a new monastery:

"Then came to mind some words of wisdom he had heard: 'live close to a city but not within it.' Aidan saw the islands out at sea. Surely, as at Iona, the monks could have an island home?"

"King Oswald found it hard to understand: 'Of the islands not one of them is large enough or productive enough for you to settle on. Well there is one, if you can call it an island, but it is not a proper island. It is not far from the mainland and it lies in a shallow sea. Twice in every 24 hours it becomes part of the mainland, joined by sand and mud flats. As the tide changes each day, you have to understand its rhythms if you are to live there in safety.'

"Aiden could only see the advantages in this description. It was near enough to the [city], but far enough away to allow them the quiet they needed for prayer. The very idea of a rhythm of being open then cut off appealed to Aiden's idea of mission would be like. There must always be a balance between prayer and outward actions, between stillness and activity."

This is the first image that God used to speak to us on sabbatical: that of tides, of rhythms of engagement with the Lord and engagement with our work, of a balance between prayer and action. More on what that looks like in the next blog!

What does your life-rhythm look like? Do you have a balance between prayer and outward actions, between stillness and activity?

Click here for the rest of this blog series.