In our world today speed and efficiency is prized above almost everything else. Technology has allowed us to increase the pace of our lives and to accomplish more in a 24 hour day than would have ever been thought possible in the past. While we celebrate this in our culture, we are starting to feel the emotional and spiritual fatigue that comes from living at this accelerated pace. We see it in the desire to fill our lives with the distractions of Facebook and Instagram, entertainment and sensory pleasure. We have been over-engaged and our soul and psyche are stretched beyond their capacity. Because our emotional margin has been so depleted we explode onto others who present challenges to us. It’s a form of relational road rage that is becoming rampant, especially with weapons like social media to empower us to strike out at people we never even have to see face to face. In the midst of all this we lose something crucial to what it means to be a human being. We start treating people as burdens or impediments to getting what we want. We move from relating to others and begin reacting to others. The truth is we aren’t even reacting TO them as much as we are reacting ON them. We are reacting to our own inner chaos and they just happen to be the closest target. It’s not something new, Thoreau felt this tension between living life and merely existing all the way back in 1862. He moved into the woods to let the dust settle.
If he thought life was moving to fast over 150 years ago, we might want to rethink the speed we live at today as well.
The reason this concerns me is that the longer I walk with people through their spiritual lives (and seek to let people walk with me through mine), the more I am convinced that God doesn’t choose to work fast or efficiently when it comes to what He is doing in us. It’s not His fault, often our brokenness and self-centred behaviour are so deeply entrenched in our lives that it takes time and struggle to get to the root. Even when we see the heart of the problem, we often prefer to keep it as it is rather than change because doing something different takes us into the realm of the unknown. We’d prefer the dysfunction that we know to the growth that we don’t. Who knows what changing will ask of me? As life speeds by it is sometimes far easier (at least it seems that way) to just hurry to keep up than to slow down and ask why we are even running in this direction in the first place. Everyone else is doing it, why rock the boat? It’s hard enough as it is, fighting the current seems like a losing proposition.
But it’s not. The paradox of following Jesus is that life actually comes through death. There is that whole thing about Jesus, a cross, and the empty tomb, remember that? That in what appears to everyone else as loss is great treasure for the one who follows God into the losing. It’s very difficult to see this in advance, but it almost always becomes clear as we look into the rear view mirror. I fear that if we don’t slow down long enough to incorporate some practices of rest and reflection into our lives that we will become spiritually numb to the real life that God is offering us all along the way. It’s a process, not an instantaneous transformation. But those who are willing to rest in the fact that God is leading them will find that his sense of direction, while appearing slow and inefficient, actually leads them to the place that they wanted to go all along, even if they didn’t even realize it. Another thinker, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) write a prayer called Patient Trust. I think he was driving at the same idea.
Are you running so fast through life that you never have time to slow down? I think we all know that this might be true of us, but we are overwhelmed and struggle to find practical ways to move toward this type of life change. Here’s what I recommend. Instead of not slowing down because you can’t figure out how to do it consistently, write down the word “slow” on a few post it notes and stick them in places you will see them throughout your day. Whenever you see one stop, take three deep breaths, thank God for His presence with you, and ask Him to help you live in a way that cultivates a more continual realization of His presence. This little practice will take you 15-20 seconds each time you do it, but it begins to set your heart toward a different timetable. You might find that the desire for slowing down and experiencing God’s presence apart from your own flurry of activity becomes more and more of something you desire. A journey of a thousand miles begins with just a single step.