Slow Down: A Core Spiritual Practice

woman on kayak on body of water holding paddlePhoto by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Yesterday, I encouraged you to take a second look at the de-souling pace of life of 21st-century living. There are ways to quit racing and rebuild a pace of life. Spiritual health, mental and emotional health, physical and relational health will all receive your decision to slow down with deep gratitude.

You will benefit from finding a model who excelled at living life at a spiritual pace and resisted being caught up in the de-souling rush of contemporary life. There are many worthy models. One is Jesus. Jesus knew something about pace and rhythm that we would all be well advised to adopt. Here are a few things He did that deserve our attention:

First, He moved at the speed of walking. It might be tempting to wonder how much more Jesus could have done had He come to earth in the 21st century with the transportation now available and the ability to reach large masses of people through television and social media. But before going too far down that road, remember that we are told, in Galatians 4:4, that at just the right time, God sent Jesus into the world. The right time includes the speed of life. Jesus walked—everywhere. God, in Jesus, moved at the speed of walking.

This is stunning: No rushing, yet never late. Always on time and never depleted. Jesus was in constant demand, but He never rushed or arrived out of breath. And He never pushed anyone to do more.

Second, He deliberately got away from the crowds and demands of others to rest. Sometimes, He invited his close friends and followers to join Him in a time of rest. He had roughly three years to make clear the mission of God to restore everyone and everything, yet not once did He appear overwhelmed, overburdened, or frustrated. Not once did He clamor for success or rush around attempting to prove his value to others.

Third, as He ascended to heaven, Jesus demanded that His followers do nothing but wait until God’s Spirit was poured fully into them. Just wait. This time, they managed to do exactly what Jesus had instructed. Instead of trying to save the world, or getting aggressive, or pushing everyone to do more, they waited. Perhaps they set up hammocks and rested as they prayed and waited.

Where did Jesus find the inspiration to tell them to do nothing except wait? Jesus was a person of the first testament scriptures. The second testament had not yet been written. Jesus read, prayed, and sang the Psalms. The words and rhythms of these books in the Bible were deeply instilled in His soul. Lest you forget, here are a few examples from the Psalms that implore us to wait:
“Wait for the Lord…wait for the Lord” (repeated twice in Psalm 27:14)
“Our soul waits for the Lord…” (Psalm 33:20)
“Wait for the Lord…” (Psalm 37:14)
I waited patiently for the Lord…” (Psalm 40:1)
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence…” (Psalm 62:5)
“I wait for the Lord; my soul waits…” (Psalm 130:5)

Now that Jesus’ “slow down” pace of life is getting your attention, here are six ways you can begin to practice this primary spiritual habit of slowing down.

First, do nothing. Doing nothing on a vacation is not usually enough. Doing nothing when you have time to do nothing accomplishes little. Doing nothing when you have no time to do nothing is where great rewards are found. However, when you are busy, it is extremely challenging to intentionally do nothing. After a variety of experiments, I have discovered that it is very beneficial to do nothing for fifteen minutes at least three times per week. Here are a few helpful explanations to provide a bit more guidance:
  • Nothing means nothing. During your 15-minute intervals, do nothing—no cell phone, conversation, music, or reading. Picture in your mind a hammock, park bench, or canoe. Climb in and just “be” there for the full 15 minutes.
  • I don’t know if doing nothing seems difficult to you. It did to me. I found, to my amazement, that I could only manage a few minutes before I began to feel myself growing uncomfortable. Thoughts such as “I have so much to do,” or “I forgot to send an email” would leap into my consciousness. I finally realized I was going through the equivalent of withdrawal—my drugs of choice were overworking and hurrying. My being was simply acknowledging the missing jolt of activity I had given it for years. But I have good news. Even though I believe that, for a majority of Christians, this will be the most difficult practice to embrace, the rewards are immense. You will, after months or possibly even years, find yourself looking forward to the times of rest that result from doing nothing. Even more miraculously, you will find yourself envisioning a time when you can set aside half a day to do nothing.
  • The real payoff from this “do nothing” practice is increased attentiveness to the Presence of God. You will sense other benefits. Serenity will replace hyper-drive; peacefulness will overtake anxiety. But the deepest impact will be rising awareness of Presence with you and around you.
Second, plan slow time. My “slow down” practice began with the goal of doing nothing for 15 minutes three times per week. As I started to find the rhythm and pace of that practice, I increasingly realized the importance of reworking my entire thinking in regard to time. It was helpful to stop my rushing, but I quickly returned to my normal pace once I had completed the 15 minutes. I needed to accept that hurrying had a vice-like grip on my life. I had to find “tricks” that gave my body and mind to quit rushing. For example, I started shifted from the fast lane of the interstate to the slow lane. Here are a few more tips I adopted:
  • Ride a bike instead of driving
  • Walk instead of riding your bike
  • Sit on a bench instead of walking
  • Prepare a meal at home rather than devouring fast food
Third, ask a pro question. The difference between a rookie and a pro is not the answers, but the questions. Rookies can give answers, but they seldom know what questions to ask. Pros ask great questions, and find better answers. Here is a pro question: “Why?”
  • Why are you rushing? Seriously, I’m asking. Why are you rushing?
  • Why have you said “yes”? What was the temptation that you could not resist?
  • Why are you overloaded? What is the force causing you to be overburdened?
  • Why are you not saying “no” more often? You could easily do so—really.
Your answers to these questions will reveal the grip that hurrying has on you. They will reveal the challenges you are facing in your desire to travel into a deeper life with Jesus.

Fourth, quit the circus. The de-souling art of 21st-century culture provides what appears to be a great skill: the ability to keep many balls in the air. It is time to resign your position as juggler. It is time to quit the circus.

You may be convinced that you are quite proficient at multitasking. You are not—it is a false skill. You can only do one thing at a time. What we call multitasking is simply allowing ourselves to be distracted. So, put all your attention into one thing. Later, move on to the next.

Fifth, resist the frenzy of others. Rarely, if ever, is the agenda of others for your life equivalent to God’s agenda. You must never resist the concerns that God lays on your heart. But be warned: even the good, spiritual-sounding agendas of others will compromise your ability to fulfill the unique mission God has given you.

Sixth, tame your mobile devices. Turn off your mobile. Make it serve you rather than you serving its every buzz, vibration, and ring. Do not take it with you on your walk or run. Do not bring it into the hammock. Resist sneak peeks. This may sound like a frivolous rule, but the data is overwhelming. Cellphones are destroying our soul’s ability to pay attention to anything, let alone the Presence of Living God.

1 Comment

Jessica - July 22nd, 2023 at 4:13pm