Could We Hurry Up, Please
We love speed. Fast cars, fast processors, fast athletes. When we go on vacation, who doesn’t ask the question, “What is the fastest way to get there?” We are bona fide speed junkies. Don’t believe me, then go to any 24 hour “supercenter” and buy something at 11 o’clock at night. You know, when there is only one register open; and you have one item; and there are five people in front of you – with their baskets full. Yes, we love FAST.
Maybe We Should Slow Down
I recently took a trip to the local zoo with my kids. Though it is not as bad as it was when they were really small, we still have to fight against the “Let’s hurry up and see the next thing” tendency. I was amazed at how little my children could enjoy what was in front of them, for a longing of what was next. I was amazed even more by my own childishness. How often I do the exact same thing in my own life! The transition from being childish to “full-grown” is the process of maturity. Maturity comes from a Latin word that means “to ripen.” It is a carry over from agriculture. You plant a seed, you water it, you fertilize it, you cultivate it, and you watch it grow. And somewhere along the way, after lots of work and time (and an even greater part of God’s merciful kindness), that small seed grows into a plant, that produces buds, that produces fruit. The young, inedible fruit then begins to change color and eventually – it ripens. It matures. And it took a long, slow process to do so. And it is the slowing down of things that I think may be missing from our Christian existence. We want everything and we want it yesterday. Like the little child throwing a tantrum, we “Can’t wait; I want it now!” But why do we always want things to move so quickly? Why do we want things to go so fast? Why are we so afraid of slowing down?
Why Contemplation and Calm Are So Scary
If we aren’t careful, we would jump to a quick (and very self-righteous) conclusion that we want things fast because we are trying to be good stewards of our time. We are “making the most of our time” because the “days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). There is too much good work to be done to slow down. “The Lord could return at any moment. We must have our lamps lit and be on the ready. He must not find us sleeping,” we might say as we explain our lack of calm in eschatological terms. These all make great sound bites, and in some cases may sparkle with the glimmer of truth.
I would like to propose a more critical, self-reflective answer as to why we don’t want to slow down: we are afraid to. It scares us to actually calm down and contemplate life. Our natural tendency, the one we have in Adam, is to move quickly, to look at what is next, to pay little attention to what is front of us. We see the fruit and it looks good; we don’t calm down and contemplate the lasting effects of touching and eating.
So, what would be so frightening about slowing down and giving ourselves, our lives, our work, our play, our homes a good “once over?” For most of us, if we are honest, we would not really like what we see. We wouldn’t see Jesus as magnified as He should be. We wouldn’t see a reliance on the Spirit of God, but rather there would be a reliance on self. We would see that most of our efforts and activities are merely distractions and these distractions are designed, even if unintentionally so, to keep us from considering seriously the call to “be still (cease striving) and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10).
The Calling To Calmness
Jesus is our Sabbath rest. He has come to deliver us from sin and self. We have been called to follow Him. We have been called to a life that is counter to the present world power and its darkness. We have been called to contentment. Our quest for perpetual speed is often a reflection of discontent. We get “bored” so to speak. Yet, the mere fact and reality of being in Jesus and being seated in the heavenly places with him is the counter-position to being bored. It is joy and wonder and beauty Incarnate. To be one with Jesus, to have His life because He took our death makes everything about our lives incredible. It is a worthwhile thing, then, to slow down and give careful consideration to what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do. He is redeeming creation to Himself. He is using His people, by the Spirit, through the fullness of the gospel, to bring about this work. He is calling us to calm down, consider His Word, pray to Him, reflect on His beauty, and participate in the building/redeeming of His kingdom. Most of this is missed when we sprint. Most of this is missed when we don’t make a conscious effort to move the background noise from the forefront. Most of us are focusing on the distractions. We are finding our delight in the detours, rather than the narrow way. We are called to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). None of these expresses itself properly with speed; all of these have in their essence a slow, contemplative move toward maturity.
So, let’s take the challenge to slow down. Read the Word. Pray. Reflect on the glory of God in creation. Appreciate God honoring art, music, literature. Go for a quiet walk. Build something with your kids. Enjoy the process of working, rather than getting the job done. Let us move away from the childishness of the hurried life and begin to ripen toward a life of contemplation and calm.