Practicing Lent: Slowing

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

I once heard a story about an American traveler on an African safari. A typical type-A American, he wanted to see as much as possible in the time he had on the continent. And because he wanted to see parts of the land where travel was difficult, he hired some local people to carry his supplies.

On the first morning, they got up early and made encouraging progress. The second morning everyone once again rose with the sun and they covered a great distance. The third day the party traveled far. But on the fourth morning, the local people simply sat under the trees and refused to move on.

The American tourist became impatient, but no amount of coaxing would get the men moving again. Finally, through an interpreter, the tourist asked what the problem was.

The translator relayed their message, “They are waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.” [Adapted from Soul Keeping (p. 130), by John Ortberg]

Have you ever felt like that? Like you have hurried through your days, sped through your tasks, even rushed through your time with God so quickly that your soul has been left behind?

I know I have.

Our society is built on hurry. We try to pack our days like we pack for a 2-week vacation–into a carry-on suitcase. I see this in the lives of my piano students who hurry from school to piano lessons to soccer practice to math tutoring. I see it in the lives of those in ministry as they rush from church services to Bible studies to community volunteering to board meetings.

I’ll bet there are days or weeks or months when you too, live in a state of hurry. Modern lives are filled with a myriad of good things and we feel we need to rush to fit them all in.

But when we stop long enough to breathe we realize that our soul has been neglected. It’s Tuesday, but it feels like our soul has been left behind at Saturday.

Slowing

To remedy this situation, I suggest we practice the Spiritual Discipline of Slowing. Perhaps this is not a typical Spiritual Discipline. A search in the concordance confirmed that God’s Word does not say “slow down” in those exact words. Yet we see this concept in Scripture when God talks about our need for rest.

God Himself rested on the seventh day of creation. He commanded His people to rest on the Sabbath.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God told the disobedient Israelites:

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

And the prophet Jeremiah declared,

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
    and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
    and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jeremiah 6:16)

God does not want us to live a life of hurry. In these passages, we see that hurry happens when we insist on relying on our own strength and knowledge. When we feel God’s way is simply too slow and we try to hurry Him along. We step out of His ancient paths in an effort to achieve our objectives–faster.

Jesus’ Example

Perhaps the best Scriptural example of slowing was Jesus Himself. His life was not one of idleness. He was always occupied with preaching, teaching, and healing. Yet in reading the Gospels, I never have the feeling that Jesus hurried. He always took the time that was needed. Even when he was on His way to a very sick twelve-year-old girl, He stopped to speak to a woman who had touched His cloak and been healed of a long, painful illness. (Mark 5:21-33)

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Jesus told His disciples:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus didn’t say that we should sit around and do nothing. Instead, we should work with Him. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to a plow or cart. The yoke enables the animals to work together. Jesus invites us to take His yoke, work alongside Him.

I don’t know about you, but hurry frequently enters my life when I attempt to accomplish more than God intends. When I insist on trying to carry all the burdens of this life on my own. In the words of Matthew, I hear Jesus say, “Stop that. Work with me. Don’t take on too much. Don’t try to do it on your own. I have wonderful tasks planned for you, but when you work with Me, it won’t feel like hard labor or a heavy burden. It will be more like rest for your soul. Hurry won’t even enter into the equation.”

Practicing Slowness

So how can we practice slowness and eliminate hurry?

Here are a few suggestions:

Sabbath.The Lord commanded the Sabbath for a reason. He knew we needed it. Time to worship. Time to rest. Time to tend to our souls. If you don’t already observe the Sabbath, I encourage you to take one day a week to engage in corporate worship. To spend time with family and friends. To close the computer or put away the broom. Instead, spend time in God’s Word, read a good book, or take a walk in the woods. (Read more about observing Sabbath here.)

Examine your activities. Is your life one big hurry because you have taken on more than God intended? Take an hour to list all your activities and your family’s activities that involve your time. Prayerfully ask the Lord where you have stepped out of the yoke He has planned for you and tried to do things on your own.

Build a little margin in your day. I’ll admit this is still a hard one for me, but another suggestion for eliminating hurry is to allow more time between appointments and activities. Try not to schedule things back to back. When you need to go somewhere, estimate how long it will take to get there and then allow twice that amount of time. If the drive to the dentist’s office normally takes ten minutes, allow twenty. The extra margin gives you time to notice the lilacs on the way. Or really listen to the words of the song on the radio. If you arrive early, you have time to relax and breathe.

Modern life is fast. We feel we need to keep up. But Dallas Willard, an author who often writes about Spiritual Disciplines, reminds us:

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

God knows we need soul rest. And He will provide it.

Next step: Click here to access a free resource with a list of Scriptures about soul rest. Over the next five days, take time to read what God says about rest. Ask Him to teach you and invite Him to point out any changes that need to be made in your life. Thank Him for His promise of soul rest.