Rhythms for Life, Alastair Sterne. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020.
Summary: An approach to spiritual practices and a rule of life tailored to the unique identity, gifts, calling, and roles of each person.
Rhythms for Life joins an increasing field of books exploring spiritual practices and the idea of a rule of life. The author even includes a list of these books for further reading. What, then distinguishes this book?
I would contend that it is the first half of this book, coupled with the second half. The first half explores who has God made us to be. Sterne explores in successive chapters 1) identity, 2) gifts, talents, and personality, 3) virtuous values, 4) roles, and 5) vocation. The chapter stood out to me, defined as what we consider important and worthwhile, differentiating aspirational and actual values, how values are formed and transformed in Christ, and how we identify them.
Each of the chapters in the first part include a “workbook” section at the end beginning with prayer, identifying descriptive words that resonate, and asking a variety of questions to help one tease out and reflect on oneself. Doing this together in a group and inviting others to confirm or challenge your insights can be helpful.
The second part focuses on developing rhythms to live out our vocation based upon what we’ve learned about ourselves and our vocations. Sterne proposes four types of rhythms: 1) Up–Upward to God, 2) In–Inward to Self, 3) With–Withward in Community, and 4) Out–Outward in Mission. In these chapters there are brainstorming questions at the end of each section, rather than at the end of the chapter. Each of these chapters concludes with a sample set of rhythms organized around regular and seasonal rhythms and a growth rhythm.
In addition to the appendix on further resources, there is one on develop rhythms in community, and one on discerning a call to ministry.
Books have been written around the content in the first part. Others have been written around the practices of the second. What is unique is the idea of developing a rule of life around the self-knowledge gained in the first part. This sounds great in theory but I found the book short on ideas of how this translates in practice. Perhaps it just follows from working through the exercises. My own sense is that this is done best either with a spiritual director or a community of those who know and trust each other.
What is of value, it seems to me, are the insights gained by working through the first part of this. Knowing ourselves and knowing God walk hand in hand. And perhaps that helps us face honestly whether our spiritual practices are helping us engage with God and his calling in our lives.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.