Judges chapter 12 tells the strange story of the killing of forty two thousand Ephraimites who were betrayed by a sound. Apparently the tribe of Ephraim couldn’t pronounce the word “Shibboleth” properly and when the opposing tribes met a stranger on the road they simply asked them to repeat this word. When an Ephraimite failed to do this, their identity was exposed and they were killed.
I find it fascinating that they could tell who belonged to which tribe by the sound that they either could or couldn’t make.
I believe that within the heart of every person on the planet is a desire to belong, a need for community, a longing for family. What we are really looking for is a tribe that makes the same sound as us, a people group who make the same noise, speak the same language and whose heart beats in time with ours.
In the animated movie Happy Feet, a take on the mating ritual of penguins is shown. In the film, every emperor penguin sings a unique song called a “heart-song” to attract a mate. If the male penguin’s heart-song matches the female‘s song, the two penguins mate.
There is nothing more fulfilling than finding someone who has the same heart-song as yours. I believe not only is this true in a romantic relationship but I believe it is also true in the context of the church that we call our spiritual home.
There can be nothing more frustrating than trying to be planted in a church and yet you are the only one who can’t say “Shibboleth”. You love them, you try your best to support and yet they don’t make the same sound as you. Your heart-songs don’t match.
But I can tell you that there is something joyful about walking into a place and knowing – my song matches theirs! I can’t put my finger on it, but I recognise their sound – it’s the same one that is beating in my own heart too. Of course there can still be times when we clash, when one of us is out of tune with the other – but when you know that this is a place I can belong, I can flourish, I can grow, I like the sound that they are producing, then there is nothing more glorious.
This is a word for the misfits – for those who have always struggled to belong. Please don’t get discouraged and quit fellowshipping. Neither become a restless wanderer moving from one place to the other. I believe this: God has a penguin for you! He has a tribe for you that sings the same song that is in your heart. Ask God to lead you to your tribe, to your penguin.
Whether it is a church family, a friendship group or a spouse – God has a penguin for everyone. When you find yours – value it, treasure it, look after it. Nothing is more precious or satisfying than knowing that you have found where you belong.
Our ultimate penguin is Jesus Christ! No human love can satisfy like His love. He is the One that we were created for relationship with. He is the One that satisfies like no other. In Song of Songs, the beloved describes her heart as pounding for the one she loves (2:4). At the same time He is knocking on the door, longing to come in and be with her (v2). The sound of Him knocking on the door beats in perfect timing with the pounding of her heart. Oh, how His love is truly the only thing that can satisfy, the only thing that can bring meaning, the only thing that brings purpose to us. His love brings satisfaction, His love brings joy, His love makes us complete. He is truly our penguin – the One our soul longs for. Our heart longs for Him and His heart longs for us. When these two hearts beat in time with each other, when we are one with Him and He is one with us, we have found life itself.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 – The Message)
Life in our own strength, a life of busyness, of trying to keep up with the Jones’, of being on the treadmill of our daily routine – all it leads is to stress, burn out and exhaustion.
But there is an invitation to walk with Him, to lean in and listen to His sound, to live a life of intimacy and communion with Him. This is the unforced rhythms of grace – when our lives walk in time with His, when our hearts beat as one with His. This is joy, this is peace, this is rest.
“God’s timing” – it is less about seconds and minutes and hours as it is about rhythm, relationship and one-ness. Jesus is God’s perfect will, He is always on time and He invites us into a place of One-ness with Him where He lives His life and purposes out through me. When I try and live life at my own pace, I know I can easily go off track. But when He becomes my Divine Conductor, when I yield to Him and find my rest in Him, I am always in a place of contentment.
We need to find a place where all other noises are drowned out and I am listening to Him, letting Him lead, guide and work through me.
I find that when I am one with Him there are times of incredible activity and yet I am never burnt out and also times of no activity and yet I am never bored. When I live with Him as the metronome of my life, I live in a place of perfect contentment. It is only when my heart is somehow beating to a different pace to His that stress and burn out comes.
The revivalist John G Lakes’ grandson said, “My grandfather had the knack of always being exactly where God wanted him at just the right time”.
This is the unforced rhythms of grace. This is what it means to have a heart that beats in time with heaven. This only comes through times of being alone with Him, being still and listening.
Lean in. Listen. Respond. Then you can truly live.
“O God! Thou hast made us for Thyself and our souls are restless, searching, until they find their rest in Thee” – Saint Augustine