I mean it. Slow down. Late modern life has afflicted almost all of us with the disease of haste and it is robbing us of precious time. We think we save it by hurrying, but the opposite is the case. There really is something to that old saying, "The hurryer I go, the behinder I get." And with the stolen time go stolen opportunities to grow into the joy that only God can give.
For most Americans, it's the busiest time of the year. To slow down now seems impossible and my plea ridiculous, but God often works this way, contrary to our inclinations (and our caving in to the fatalism of the season) in order to give us something we desperately need.
Of late I have become steadily more aware of the impatience that pushes me. (I'm sure several of my friends and certainly my wife are saying "Well, duh!") I need to get to the end of this book so that I can get on to the next book! I need to finish this task so that I can get to the next one. I always feel that internal pressure to get to the end of one thing to make room for the next thing. While insisting that there are no shortcuts to spiritual growth and while calling for a more, shall we say, leisurely approach to disciplines like Bible study, always in my heart I feel driven by...what?
Does this sound familiar?
Since Advent has begun, scriptures associated with the season weigh on my mind. 2 Peter 3:8-15 is one of them. "But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness..." "As some think of slowness!" I smile and wince at this affirmation at the same time. Let me tell you, I can think of slowness in pretty strong terms! Yet God is not concerned in the slightest with my definition of slowness. On the contrary, I'd better be concerned with God's timetable. If a thousand years to us is like a day to the Lord, who needs to adjust? And what would it look like if we did?
What happens to our souls when we begin to let this truth take root and bear fruit there? What if, in the middle of an obscenely busy season when many of the wrong messages come at us non-stop, we actually did adjust our hearts to God's word and pace? When we slow down, our perspective changes. We begin to see what has remained blurry, hidden from view. It's risky to slow down, but it's also good.
In the end, I'm asking us not so much about the pragmatic challenge of clearing our schedules of clutter but about slowing down our hearts, as it were. Indeed, many of us could do some schedule-purging, but once done, the more important work begins. We need to calm and quiet our souls like a weaned child with its mother, as Psalm 131 says. Think of that picture. A child resting peacefully on its mother's lap is precisely the posture we can take with our heavenly Father. Quiet. Unhurried. Slow.
Every generation has its music. I regrettably understand how little I know that of younger generations. But some music endures and sometimes a song says just the right thing and should be heard no matter the age or the preferences of the listener. Here is one such song from a long, long time ago, by Chuck Girard. It's called "Slow Down," and plays on Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God."