I’ve been reading a book in preparation for a Bible study I will lead beginning later this month. One of the chapters talks extensively about slowing down and how as a general rule we are all bad at it. We can’t seem to slow down, even if we don’t really have anywhere to be. Our lives are often so tightly scheduled that we spend the day jumping from one responsibility to another. Our work is full of meetings and commitments and responsibilities. It rarely matters what our job is, there are certain things we have to do. If we are a waitress, our work is determined by the person that wants to eat. If we are a teacher, our work is determined by the student. If we are a bank teller our work is determined by the individual who wants to deposit money. If we are the owner of a company our work is determined by the employees. We stay busy and in a hurried state because we are all in customer service and one way or another our responsibility is take care of someone else. But even if we happen to have an open spot on that schedule with nothing to do and nowhere to be, we can’t shift to that lower gear and just take our time. We’re in a hurry even if we have no where to go.
When we get home in the evening after that full day of work, we have families to take care of. Take kids to practices, pick kids up, feed the kids, put the kids to bed, wash the dishes, pick up the house, and hurry up and get ready for tomorrow and get it all done at a decent hour so we can get enough sleep to get up in the morning and do it all over again. Notice there is nothing in any of this about taking care of ourselves. There is nothing in any of this about making time to slow down and to find quiet time to reflect and think. It’s because most of us are good people. Most of us are servant people that understand the importance of taking care of others first. That is our nature. We think that if we carve out a few minutes each day just for ourselves we are being selfish. That we are wasting time we could be using to clean or fix or to take care of, or to make something.
My grandparents were farmers. They raised cattle and hogs, they had horses, and they grew corn and soybeans and baled hay. When I was a kid I used to go and stay with them and help as I could when I was there. I probably thought I was a much greater help then I actually was, but my grandpa was a very patient and gentle man and always made me feel like he couldn’t do without me. On a farm there is always something to do. You’re never done. But he would always take a break in the morning to have coffee, always come in for lunch and sit down with grandma, always take a break in the afternoon and have some cookies and a bottle of pop, and would never work late into the evening. Certainly not because he was lazy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think he had that balance thing between time for himself and time for work figured out. He knew how to slow down. And he ran a successful farm.
Sometimes we hurry even when we don’t need to but because we think we are supposed to. Have you ever caught yourself rushing to your next stop even when there is no particular time you need to be there and nothing particular you need to do when you arrive? I went to the library the other day just to sit somewhere quiet and get caught up on some work I needed to get done. I caught myself looking at my watch, rushing through a project I needed to complete, thinking that I need to hurry up and get done so I can get going. I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be. I’m just sitting there thinking that if I got done quickly, I could go. Go where? I wasn’t sure. It was just time to move on, even if I didn’t have anywhere to be. We’ve even conditioned ourselves to hurry up and wait.
Slowing down is hard. It takes practice. I’m not very good at it. I always think I need to be doing something on our small acreage so that I don’t get behind. It’s hard for me to sit very long on our porch and enjoy the breeze and the sights and the sounds of the country, and to just think. So I’m practicing. A person can’t change all at once. They need to practice. So how can you practice if you don’t have a big porch and live in the country? How about getting in the lane that has more cars in it, on purpose, at a stop light? Try going to a checkout line in Wal-Mart that has more carts in it so you have to wait a little longer, or that line at a bank to talk to a teller. What if you push-mowed your lawn next time instead of using the riding mower? What if you parked farther away from your destination on purpose so you had to walk a little further?
It may sound crazy. It did to me too at first. But we have to be careful that we don’t “rush” our lives away, whether it’s our personal lives or our work lives. We should not measure our success in how much money we make, how fast we make it, or how many projects we get done. We should measure our success in how much satisfaction we get from the journey we take. Consider sometimes that slower can be better. And that stuff about making money and completing projects? They’ll happen. My grandpa did just fine and he always had time for a bottle of pop.