Why the Christian Must Model Slow


I used to live in a little cabin in the woods. Just me. I would walk there after quitting time, cook my meal for one, hand clean and dry my dishes, and settle in for the evening.

That simple housework amid solitude proved to be some of the holiest times I’ve experienced in my life. To this day, I can think of few mountaintop experiences with God that matched the simple joy of making food and cleaning up afterward in His presence. It was slow work, never hurried. While it asked for concentration on the task, I never felt overwhlemed. I did, however, feel holiness in the moment.

Something in those basic, careful actions in a quiet cabin in the woods centered me on God. He was there. Always. I could feel Him connecting with me in my doing.

I don’t believe most people today ever experience that kind of focused yet unhurried connection with God in their work. It’s one reason why so many people see their jobs as soul-inhibiting. Paycheck, yes. Personal meaning, no.

Much has been written concerning the recent New York Times piece on the frenetic atmosphere at Amazon. Frankly, I think many people will wonder at the singling out of Amazon, given how blender-like corporate life has become for everyone.

People in a blenderWhat’s the most commonly used phrase in job postings today? I’ll cast my lot for fast-paced environment. It’s ubiquitous, a badge of corporate honor. Businesses stopped pushing the blender’s Stir button and progressed with boasting to Liquify.

What’s being “liquified” is people.

Let’s get real here: Fast-paced environment most likely expresses itself as a needlessly disorganized workplace that is understaffed and poorly managed at all levels due to horrendous forecasting and unrealistic expectations. Companies use that phrase with pride when they should instead be soberly calling it failure and correcting it.

Yes, I went there.

I’m not alone, though, as the NYT Amazon article and this one, “Work Hard, Live Well,” show us. Our harried work lives are getting noticed as a negative. Finally.

Beyond our jobs, the general pace of life is killing us as well. Too much incoming data to process. Too many commitments. Too much striving to stay on top. Too much structure to maintain. Too much need to control. Too much.

We can’t live in a perpetual state of being overwhelmed and still maintain our mental and physical health. It’s time to stop lying to ourselves about what we can and cannot do.

We were not created by God to be little flesh-bundles of process optimization. Being counts as much, or more, than doing.

The blur that is our daily existence leaves no room for God. This lie that we can cram an entire day’s spirituality into a 15-minute quiet time is just that: a lie. And it always has been, despite whatever some nationally recognized pastor, spiritual leader, Christian author, or life coach says.

Why? Because God is to be found in EVERY moment. In something as basic as cooking dinner for one. Or in handwashing the dishes.

Julie, a friend and essayist in the vein of Annie Dillard, rebooted her Lone Prairie site and elected to hand code the HTML and CSS. Most would say that’s the hard way.

But some would contend it’s the way God connects with us in our work. It’s slow. It may even be tedious. Yet I think that pulling back from the most optimized, GTD-approved way is how we can reconnect with the holiness of our professions. It’s how we can slow down enough to find not only ourselves but God.

If we Christians are not the people who stay off the dance floor when the world says mambo or who cannot laugh in the face of demanded mourning, who will?

Christians are supposed to be the most countercultural of all people, yet more often than not, we American Christians, through a grace-less misunderstanding of responsibility, instead lead the parade toward dis-ease.

Slowing down enough to find God in more than just the “holy moments” but in ALL of the day will cost us. It must.

If lost people are going to find God, we Christians must be the examples of how to connect with Him. If we’re racing around like headless chickens, we will have no time for perception and observation, either of the natural world which God created or of the spiritual one, where He is found. Neither will we have time to process the crucial connections between the two, where wisdom dwells. We will instead become blind guides. There won’t be any counterculture left, only concession to the deaf and dumb spirits of the age.

“I’ll rest when I’m dead” is no statement of integrity but of stupidity. Christian, find ways to slow down or risk losing everything that truly matters.

Once off the highway and on the backroads, we’ll find God on the curves, near that spot with the stunning vista. Take time to stand there and breathe. That’s where redemption abides.

So Why Does It Matter?


This week, we’ve looked at the problem of the frantic, overscheduled, overworked lives we Americans face (“When the Truth Strikes Out” and “It’s Never Enough Until Your Heart Stops Beating“). I’ve blogged on this issue many times in the past (see the end of this post for related posts), but I don’t see it getting any better. If anything, the Church and parachurch organizations act as if nothing has changed. Yet we now…

…spend more time away from home performing our jobs.

…spend record amounts of time commuting or shuttling our kids here and there.

…have more time-pressed, dual-income families than ever before.

…work harder for less money, often necessitating multiple jobs.

…have no time for social groups that help maintain the fabric of our society.

…feel more guilty than ever that we can’t mirror the perfect family that well-meaning Christians tell us we must be.

Why should any of this matter, though? Why should Christians address the underlying causes for these problems?

As someone keenly aware of the state of disciplemaking in this country, I believe it matters because all these things work to undermine the Great Commission. Dude, it's like moving! Whoa!I believe these trends and changes in our society actively work against the Gospel.

I don’t know how far we must sink before Christian leaders in America wake up to the fact that most of their charges are one exhale away from spiritual death. Our collective hypnosis must end.

With so many distractions and so much rushing to and fro, how can any of us expect to develop a truly deep walk with Christ? When dad spends twelve hours a day away from home, how can he be expected to be a true spiritual leader in his home? By the time he eats dinner and tosses a ball with Junior for fifteen minutes, the day’s over. The weekend consists of doing all the things that didn’t get done during the weeknights. Sometimes prayer goes out the window. Bible study? Forget about it. Developing a rich community of faith with others? How? Who has the time?

Folks, these are serious problems that strike at the very health and mission of Christ’s Church in this country. Yes, many of them are of our own making from long past, but now they’re entrenched in our culture, and like ticks embedded in the skin, they’re not easy to remove without an infection resulting.

Jan at The View From Her asked why Christians are demanding more and more Christian movies and TV shows. Isn’t it all just preaching to the choir?

That question fits here because I feel that our discipleship in this country is so poor we’re failing to create disciples who can stand on their own two spiritual feet. They need constant propping up in order to walk the path of Christ. So instead of developing an inner life filled with the Spirit, they surround themselves with pleasant Christian messages they believe will strengthen them.

Unfortunately, that misguided belief resembles going into battle clad in pillows rather than armor. Yet in a frenzied environment packed to the gills with this activity and that, we flop to the couch with nothing left and turn on our sweet little Christian movie before we doze off.

Folks, it ain’t workin’.

The American Church won’t shake the censers of heaven with our prayers if we toss off prayer between bites of doughnut and sips of coffee listening to Christian radio during morning rush hour. We’re not going to build strong communities if we pull in from work at 7 PM, change clothes, and wolf down dinner, only to realize it’s 8 PM already and we missed yet another church-related event. Delusional people think they can pull that off.

Perhaps that’s our problem: we’ve lost touch with reality. Or perhaps we’ve got too much reality and have lost touch with the Lord, instead. Either way, we’re in trouble if we blithely soldier on without question.

Call your pastor up some night and ask him about this. Ask him what he thinks all this bustle and overwork might be doing to his flock. Then ask why it is that no one questions it all.

If all of us do this, then some outside chance exists that some leaders will start thinking beyond the rathole issues that distract us from true discipleship. Perhaps then we’ll see important Christian voices confronting these problems.

Previous posts on these issues: