Before COVID-19 came in and ruined everyone’s travel plans, my wife and I were avid travelers. Having lived in Spain for 10 months in 2016, it was my personal goal to see as much as possible and as quickly as possible. I would find myself putting together elaborate itineraries packed full of events. While the photos are great, looking back on that year, it doesn’t take me long to realize everything that I missed by not being present in the moment. While my body kept moving, I missed so much that God may have had for me if I just stopped for a minute to breathe.
Have you ever lived life this way? Ever felt like you’ve hurried through your to-do list and your days that you just felt like every day blurred together in a series of tasks and never-ending to-do’s? Eugene Peterson once wisely said, “Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness. It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing.” Doesn’t that seem counterintuitive? However, the discipline of slowing down to raise our awareness of God’s working is something that requires intentionality.
Most of us pack our days like I used to pack backpacks for vacations in Europe; stuffed to the absolute brim with no room to spare. The discipline of slowing is allowing intentional space and mindfulness to allow ourselves to see what it is that God might be doing in a particular space or moment. As a gardener cultivates the ground for the harvest, we can cultivate awareness of God’s working by slowing down. You won’t find any commandment in Scripture that says, “Thou shalt slow down” but you will find that on the 7th day, God rested. You will find that Eli, instead of chastising Samuel to go to bed because they’ve got a lot on the temple cleaning list tomorrow, encourages him to listen to what God might be saying. Perhaps we can learn from Jesus himself that in the midst of preaching, teaching, and healing, I never get the sense that he was ever hurried.
So, how can we practice slowing down? Here are some key practices:
Sabbath. The Lord commands it for a reason. Slow down, rest, worship, tend to your soul.
Build margin in your day: One of my favorite little Apple Watch apps is the “breathe” app. Six times a day, I get a reminder buzzing on my wrist to breathe. Maybe you have this or you set something up to build 30-second margins into your day to simply pray, be, and listen to what God might be doing in any given moment.
There are many other things you could do, modern life is quick (even in COVID!). Sometimes if we want to hear from God, like Samuel, we just have to slow down for a second to listen.
Pastor Seth Redden
High School Ministry