Sunday, November 20, 2011

Slowing, part one

This week has been... a good week... but an interesting week. A couple weeks ago our car gave out on us. We are a one car family, but luckily we were able to borrow a car for the first week that our car was in the shop. We thought that we were going to get our car back early the next week. But it turned out that it had to go back to be fixed two more times. And so we didn't really get our car back until Friday. So, last week we didn't have a car, it was rainy, and both of my kids have colds. So we mostly stayed home and didn't do much. It was a great lesson in slowing.

Appropriately that was our spiritual discipline assignment for our Sunday school class for the last two weeks. Slowing.

One of Greg's favorite books is The Life You've Always Wanted by John Ortberg. In it he talks about the discipline of slowing. He says that once when he was entering a new ministry he called a spiritual mentor for advice. His mentor told him, "Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life." Ortberg wrote this down on his paper and then asked, "Okay, what's next?" "There is no next." his mentor replied.

Our Sunday School is going through the book The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. I can't explain slowing down better than he did, so here are a few excerpts:
Hurry and distraction are nothing new, but in our age we seem to have perfected them. More than at any time in history we have become obsessed with productivity, speed and efficiency.... And while we increasingly move faster, we are enjoying life less.

Our impatience has made life a dizzying blur. And as a result, our spiritual lives are diminished. As we try harder, we are becoming spiritually shallow and deeply disappointed--not exactly a recipe for a robust life.

The mantra of our achievement-oriented world is, "You are only as valuable as what you produce." This leads to the narrative that what we produce determines our value, and therefore the more we produce the more valuable we are. What we did yesterday is old news; what matter is what we are doing today.

Satan does not always appear as a red devil, a ghastly monster or the object of sexual desire. Sometimes he simply inserts a false narrative (achievement equals value) into our minds. Once that narrative gets firmly planted, we are headed toward destruction without realizing it. The narrative can sound almost Christian. That's why it slips in unnoticed.... But one day we wake up and realize that the things most important to us--time with God and our family, our emotional and physical health--were sacrificed on the alter of achievement (or the success of our church). And we have nothing to show for such an amazing sacrifice.

Jesus told Martha, "There is need of only one thing." That one thing is listening to Jesus. Jesus did not say that the "one thing" was to obey his commandments (though that will come.) The first thing, the one needful thing, is to listen to his teachings. The world tries to pull us away from this important thing. Martha's way was good, but Mary's way was better. She looked at the situation and evaluated what was most important. Jesus was in her home, and being with him was the most important things she could do.

The most important aspects of our lives cannot be rushed. We cannot love, think, eat, laugh, or pray in a hurry.

Taking time is especially important in our spiritual lives. In our spiritual life we cannot do anything important in a hurry.

Why is eliminating hurry from our lives so crucial? When we eliminate hurry we become present, or more specifically, present to the present moment in all of its glory. We become aware of our surroundings. We see colors and smell smells; we hear hushed sounds and can actually feel the wind in our faces. In short, we "show up" and experience the fulness of life. And that includes, not least of all, being present to God. If I am to live well as a Christian, I need to be constantly connected to God. Hurry is not part of a well-lived life.

It is possible to act quickly without hurrying. If I have only ten minutes to get from one end of the airport to another, I can move quickly without hurrying. Hurry is an inner condition that is fear-based: "If I don't make my plane everything will be ruined. Life as I know it is over!" But when I walk in step with God I learn to say, "If I don't make that plane I'll be fine. God is with me. Things will work out. Meanwhile, I'll move my legs as fast as I can while my heart is happy and unhurried."

Slowing down is the way our soul works. Robert Barron says, "The deepest part of the soul likes to go slow, since it seeks to savor rather than to accomplish; it wants to rest in and contemplate the good rather than hurry off to another place." ... Slowing down the pace of our lives means eliminating hurry and limiting the demands and activities in our lives. Then we are more likely to take delight in our lives and make room for God.


kristal said...

thank you carolyn.
interestingly, i found this post because i was "waiting" for a show to load on netflix and it was just taking more than one second so i immediately started browsing because i couldn't "waste" that time. i was so frustrated that it didn't load instantly. how sad. i need to read this post and i need to read it often.

Nancy said...

Thanks for sharing this, Carolyn. At the end of the day I often ask myself what I accomplished and why it wasn't more. Maybe I'm asking the wrong question. Love, Mom