Driving through a local town the other week, I was behind a white van. My prejudices were in full flow. This was a typical, indeed stereotypical, white van, no doubt driven by stereotypical white van man. I knew this to be true (for such is the nature of ill-informed prejudice) because he was going 40 in a 30 mile an hour zone. Typical. Humph. Tut.
And I too was well over the speed limit. The van travelled fast, so I felt the need to do so as well. I was so close I couldn’t see the road ahead. I chose to slow down.
It was an image of today’s busy lifestyle. Others rush around so we do too. Workplaces, churches, shops, loads of places are full of people caught up in the need to do everything quickly. ‘Look at how fast I’m going,’ we cry. ‘Why are you working so slowly?’
It’s not just ‘the Jones’ we try to keep up with – it’s everybody. As if somehow, we will be a better person by doing so – or a lesser one if we don’t.
Of course, we live in a society which demands – and provides – instant gratification. A click of a button can bring a meal to our doorstep in minutes. We send e-mails and get annoyed if someone doesn’t reply straight away. We watch whole TV series at once: gone are the days of ‘And in next week’s exciting episode…’ Bosses, customers, families (and congregations) want everything done yesterday and if not then, sooner.
We rush from meeting to meeting, place to place. Not realising that rushing around uses up so much energy that we are left with less of it for when we arrive for the intended purpose – and the people.
Such rushing is counter-productive and not good for our wellbeing. We are forgetting how to wait. We are forgetting how to slow down. And quite often it’s hard to see the way ahead.
One way to address such things is to take time out. Set aside specific times for reflection or simply to stop. St Benedict offers ‘tools in the toolbox‘ to help with this and you may like to use my own thoughts contained in a book of daily reflections. Or go on a Quiet Day or retreat.
Jesus was a great one for taking things slowly. Admittedly, it got him in to a bit of bother on occasions – like when Martha and Mary’s brother Lazarus died and Jesus took ages to get there, and when Jairus wanted him to come straight away to his poorly daughter and Jesus stopped to heal someone else first.
In human terms, we might look upon those incidents as Jesus giving himself time to think and to conserve some energy because he knew he was walking in to an important situation.
Jesus also made sure he took time out – and he choose to do so. Jesus made time to rest, to think, to pray…
- On his own – Matthew 14:22-23, Luke 5:15-16,
- Before making big decisions – Luke 6:12-13.
- When needing some space before the next lot of demands come in – Mark 1:35-37.
- Before a very difficult situation – Matthew 26:36-45.
That is to be our pattern. Our pattern for living. Our vision when we are too close to everything that we can’t see the way ahead.
Looking back on 2019, what’s your vision for 2020?
Much of the same? With the same results…
Or time to make some changes?