The Sacred Pulse: Holy Rhythms for Overwhelmed Souls
It would be remiss not to mention the synchronicity of reading The Sacred Pulse by April Fiet on the heels of finishing Winn Collier’s A Burning in My Bones, Eugene Peterson’s biography. Collier traces the life of a man who lived the tension between his longings for sacred and slow rhythms and his pressured ministry obligations. It would also be remiss not to point out that halfway through Fiet’s book, knee-deep into the chapter on “Breath Mark of Snow Days,” my children’s school was canceled due to inclement weather and my home echoed with wrestling matches and drippy snow pants. It seemed an auspicious convergence of things.
Fiet, pastor, writer, gardener, chicken keeper, and knitter, is no stranger to straddling the tension of tasks and time constraints with the longing for personal, professional and familial rhythms that are more sustaining. She, like Peterson, like us, is desperate for sacred pulses that restore, heal, and allow for greater wholeness in our frenetic and fragmented lives.
The invitation to learn to “dance with God again,” (James A. K. Smith) is the gift Fiet offers her readers. The book is organized into four dances: the dance of time; intentionality; belonging; and renewal. Each chapter invites self-reflection. Using her own struggles and epiphanies, Fiet gently guides readers toward self-reflexivity of media use, meal prep and consumption, shopping habits, rest patterns, and life in community. She couples her reflections with practical suggestions that come across not as accusatory but as invitations to move toward holy pulses. Fiet welcomes us to participate in these pulses by explaining the distinction between chronos and kairos: “Chronos is the ticking timepiece, but kairos recognizes the sacredness of moments” (p. 16). When shackled by chronos, we miss the holy moments of kairos.
As a psychotherapist, I found her exploration of the relationship between busyness and control, perfectionism and deep feelings of unworthiness to be especially poignant. The act of “befriending self,” that is, developing a relationship with ourselves, while in the context of community, is key. Fiet addresses these parts of herself in a way that is reminiscent of a therapeutic approach called Internal Family Systems by Richard Schwartz. IFS declares we all have parts within us that relate to each other like a family, each part has a purpose and positive intention yet we run into trouble when one part runs the show. IFS involves the naming and reclaiming parts of ourselves, permitting parts to work together, befriending parts we have abandoned early on. This process is exemplified in Fiet’s ability to write honestly of what she calls, “the whispers.” The whisper of inadequacy relies heavily on the part that has learned to over-function in order to prove worthiness. Fiet encourages us to sit bravely with our own quiet little voices that propel us into busyness and overscheduling: “Hidden beneath our overworking and overfunctioning is a kernel of self-doubt, a sense of inadequacy… even good activities can become very exhausting activities when we do them to convince ourselves and others that we are worthy of being loved” (p. 188). Resting in the “Truth of her belovedness,” knowing that she is loved, she is enough, Fiet reminds us that we are all invited “to marvel in the belovedness that God has given us” (p. 63). Being God’s beloved sets the foundation from which all sacred pulses flow.
Importantly, Fiet highlights the need for creativity (we are all artists!) and does a convincing job of explaining the creative process and how restorative it is. While we can’t all maintain chickens, we can all create.
The only area I wished she had explored more fully was the use of our bodies and their holy rhythms as pathways to the sacred pulse. Hilary McBride’s The Wisdom of Your Body might be a lovely supplement to Fiet’s work. McBride explores the physicality of eating, rest, movement, and intimacy. The gift of embodiment (coming into our own flesh and blood) is another dance through which to welcome in sacred God-given pulses and experience kairos.
This book is meant to be savoured slowly and read with intention. I recommend it to everyone searching for life-giving rhythms “far from the maddening crowd,” which is most people I know and many of the clients with whom I work. When a book succeeds in giving me a renewed lens to see the world, whether a clove of garlic (you must plant them in the fall!), the snow falling in wet clumps outside my window, or the whispers behind striving to prove my worth, I remain a grateful reader.