Advent is the time of preparing for Christmas, but also a time to reflect on where we are in the process of living in the Reign of God right now. As I said yesterday, changes for the good are often imperceptible, but like John the Baptist, we see with the eyes of faith that God is already turning the world to His dream for us. Not being able to see God’s working clearly might fool us into thinking that we need to try to speed up the process. Certainly with all the Christmas shopping at the malls and shops, it does sometimes seem like good things come to those who hurry!
In this country, we measure a life’s value by its productivity. As a result, we get caught up in the haste to the point that our life feels like it’s on fast forward. We even feel the need to increase our speed to keep up with expectations, so we cram as much activity as possible into the shortest periods of time. We disregard our natural rhythms and our spiritual nature because it seems we don’t have time to do everything. The catch is that the more rushing around we get caught up in, the further we have to go to find satisfaction and inner peace. Racing through life, speeding through projects lead only to more projects and goals and opportunities to rush. That is why we need Advent.
Slowing down allows us to not only savor our experiences as blessings from God, but also it allows us to fully focus your attention on the good things we are trying to accomplish. While it is certainly true that God continues to talk to us, we’re running around so frantically sometimes that we don’t really hear what He’s trying to teach us. Advent reminds us to slow down, to be more intentional, to get things accomplished more efficiently and with greater attention to our work and our relationships. Slowing down also lets us live in the present…and that is where God is for us. Not in the past, not in the future, but in the present. Slowing down and accepting the reality of the slow movement of the Reign of God allows us to let go of our own preconceived ideas of what that Reign looks like. We can choose to let go of the fast forward stresses, and allow our spirits and bodies to become centered and grounded.
Think of it this way: slowing down is like going to the beach and rushing to get in a quick swim, a quick game of Frisbee with the kids, a quick lie down in the sun, and then rushing home to re-engage with our stressful life. What we should be doing is taking our time at the beach, drinking in the sounds and smells and sensations of sharing the day with nature and our family. It’s the difference between a quick utilitarian bath as opposed to luxuriating in the bathtub and truly embracing the opportunity to relax. It’s the difference between grabbing fast food at a drive-through window and lovingly preparing a meal from fresh ingredients for people we love. Slowing down lets us become more absorbed in the good we are doing: the food tastes better, the books we read are more nourishing, and the relationships we nurture are made more life-giving.
Slowing down, especially during the hectic holiday season, allows us to opt out of the frenzied pace of the people buzzing around us so we can begin moving at a pace that is deliberate, considered, and worthy of God’s confidence in us. There will still be occasions when we will consciously choose to live on fast-forward again, but we can make this a conscious choice instead of merely living on auto-pilot. Learning to slow down will no doubt take some practice for some people, but if we can slow down long enough to really try it, we may be surprised with how much fuller our lives will be and how much real peace we can hold.
Wishing you a slooooooow week,