In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus imagines that we can be salt in the lives of other people—preventing emotional, psychological, and spiritual decay in their lives. Jesus sees us acting as light in the lives of others—providing them hope, warmth, and vision. One thing which often keeps us from acting in this way, however, is our hurry. Slowing is a spiritual habit designed to reduce hurry and enlarge our potential for being salt and light in the life of each person we contact during the day.
Adele Calhoun confesses that the more she slows down, the more “I see the young mom with her kids in tow and send up a prayer. Or I notice the hold woman who can’t get her change right and help out.”[i] Slowing helps us to become aware of the needs of others around us and provides the time to meet those needs.
Slowing is related to another habit which we’ll explore later—simplicity. As he explores the life of Jesus, Gary Holloway writes that Jesus not only had a simplified exterior life but a simplified interior life as well. He writes, “Jesus knew he had his limits. He could not do it all. He did not heal everyone, teach everyone, or worry over everyone. Instead he had a single heart that focused on the calling and mission he had from God.”[ii] Slowing grows out of an ability to simplify our goals, dreams, and purpose in life. Rather than trying to get a hundred things done, we try to get a handful done. This leaves us plenty of margin—free space in our life to respond to people as we come across them.
There is a sense in which slowing is a form of Sabbath. Sabbath is spending a day or a portion of a day resting with God. This may seem radical to some because we cannot imagine not working. We begin to worry over all the work that is not getting done. Thus, in Sabbath, “we truly rest from our work by letting God take care of things. For one day, we let him do our work for us.”[iii] Slowing is Sabbath in miniature. We are ceasing some work (in Sabbath we cease all work) and trusting that God will take care of that work for us. This reduction in pace and work allows us to become more available to God and to others around us. Slowing and Sabbath have the same core theology: God is capable of running the world without us and he does not need us to run ourselves ragged in order to keep the world spinning. Trusting in this, we stop some work in order to create space and presence for others.
Take ten minutes today to identify just one thing you do not have to do today because you trust that God is still capable of running the world without your help. Identify just one thing that can wait. Now, in the space created by eliminating that one thing, breathe. Rest. Be present to God and to whomever happens to be near you at the time.
[i] Adele Calhoun, SpiritualDisciplines Handbook (IVP, 2005), 79.
[ii] Gary Holloway, You Might Be Busy If…Spiritual Practices for People in a Hurry (Leafwood, 2009), 65-66).
[iii] Holloway, 89.