In the opening pages of Spiritual Rhythm, Pastor Mark Buchanan rehearses with us of the closing verses of Psalm 88. The closing verse especially–“the darkness is my closest friend.”—speaks to a spiritual darkness nearly as black as the afternoon at Golgotha. All that the psalmist had, or thought he had, is gone, and he cries to the darkness to explain why God has abandoned him here. Most Christians can identify with the bleakness evoked in that scripture, of knowing that moment when life has crashed down and crushed our souls. As our fingers weakly reach from the rubble for the hand of the Father, none is found. We find ourselves in a season of winter.
Buchanan echoes a well known theme similar to the conclusion drawn by the author of Ecclesiastes, that our lives can be viewed as a cycle of seasons. Just as our moods and behaviors differ from season to season as the weather changes, so also should our spiritual lives mirror the life-season we find ourselves in. An important distinction that the Pastor draws in the analogy is a difference in the length of the seasons. According to the calendar winter will last precisely 90 days; a spiritual winter may last an achingly long time or pass in a few weeks. This variability demands that we prepare for the eventuality of a sudden transition into a new season before it arrives.
Spiritual Rhythm combines a pastoral sensitivity aimed at helping the believer identify the spiritual cycles and a teacher’s heart for training the disciple. In the same way that we anticipate the season to follow our present experience and prepare for it, Buchanan suggests that our spiritual disciplines should prepare for us the coming seasonal transition. Without this preparation, he says, we may find ourselves cursing the darkness rather than being able to thank God for it.
Pastor Buchanan engages the reader in the book as he has in his previous volumes. With a pastoral sensitivity and an ear for the proper personal interlude, Mark speaks to the reader as closely as your own pastor would and in a way that only a trusted associate can. He does not speak from the lofty pulpit of theological precept. Rather, he leads us to search the scriptures to find the nuggets that may not preach well but become the pearls that we jot in our journals or remember long after the book is returned to the shelf. Men will be particularly touched by the volume as Buchanan willingly visits and revisits the heart-rending pain of the lost of his friend and co-pastor Carol, expressing his pain and sorrow with complete abandon that many men strive to hide beneath layers of false machismo. A man who is especially observant will also never forget the name Abishai again.
Spiritual Rhythm is a volume that reads fast, but is one that you will want to linger on and savor. The temptation will be strong to turn this into a small group curriculum, but this material and the spiritual exercises lend themselves more to personal practice. Unless all of the members of a cell found themselves in the same spiritual season at the same time, the needs of all of the individuals would more often than not find themselves in conflict. Spend time with this book on your own and align your actions to your current season. Never again will you be anxious at an approaching transition.
I’m grateful to Zondervan who graciously provided this copy for review.