In Part 1, I spoke about Mahatma Gandhi who said back in the 40s, “There’s more to life than increasing its speed”. We’re talking about slowing down to experience the stillness of God.
Put him first in your life, and you will learn to hear him speak. He sees our heart, and he will speak to us when we are serious about knowing him. He hears everything we say verbally, or in our mind. No wonder we often hear Psalm 46:10 quoted: “Be still and know that I am God”. It is a special invitation to experience God, to rest with him and slow down.
Be still and know that I am God
It means we have to stop, but most of us, if we are honest, are not very good at that—we don’t want to. As long as we’re busy, we don’t need to address the deeper hurts in our lives; or think about that situation 10 years ago we are still trying to forget; or face our sin. Being still gives our Lord the chance to speak to us. As long as we are moving, we are able to drown him out, and not think about those broken places in our lives.
Life is busy—too busy. Too noisy and complicated and downright distracting. We have everything we could ever want and yet we long for more. At some point, we have to wonder, as Jack Nicholson did, Is this as good as it gets? (in the movie As Good as it Gets).
Many of us are busier than we’d like to be, but there has to be a healthy way to live in the midst of this busyness. The Apostle Paul instructed, “…now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). In other words, we need to be present for the ‘now’, we need to experience this very moment—and if we don’t, we may miss some of God’s gifts to us.
Simple Steps To Slow Down
What about a few suggestions to help?
1. Go for walks
There’s something spiritual about a walk. It’s easy to do if you can slot in the time and just get out and do it. C.S. Lewis used to take one every day. When you slow down enough to notice the leaves change colour or to hear the birds sing, you transcend the stress and anxiety of what’s to come and learn to notice what’s already here. Somehow, God feels closer. Maybe he is.
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2. Read offline
We love using our digital phones and tablets and Kindles, but there is still something to be said about picking up a good book. The experts tell us a different part of your brain and spirit is activated when you pick up a book and stare at actual words on actual pages. It’s elemental. You don’t merely absorb the content; you experience it. The words do something deeper to you than when you close out of one screen to open another to check your email. There’s nothing outdated or old-fashioned about the Bible in book form. Pick it up and read it—take your time.
3. Eat slowly
Too often we rush through our meals. We’re always in a hurry. God gave us mouths and the need for nourishment, and need to take time to eat our meals sensibly. One place to start is to enjoy what you eat. This is a discipline but with each intentional chew, we can remember how grateful we are for the food in our mouth.
4. Be a better listener
The next time you sit down with a friend at a coffee shop do something different: Look them in the eyes, open your ears and pay attention—instead of merely waiting for your turn to talk. The age of advertising and endless interruptions has shortened our attention spans and led us to think that no message is as important as the one we have. If we’re not careful, we can rush through an entire conversation without ever really listening. And what happens if the other person does the same?
One of the most crucial components of our social structure—the ability to connect with other people on a personal level and share with them—suddenly becomes a formality. We walk away from those conversations unchanged, which is ultimately not gratifying and just plain selfish. We might say we are listening to someone, but in reality we aren’t listening—we are thinking about what we have to do next.
When we don’t listen carefully relationships suffer. Marriages break down, children become isolated, and friendships fall apart all because we fail to really listen. If there’s anything we can take from the Bible about the social habits of Jesus, it’s this: he listened— e.g. to the woman at the well, to the 12 disciples, to the thief on the cross. Wisdom isn’t the ability to dispense witty words at a moment’s notice; it’s being able to withhold them for the right time. We learn what’s really worth saying when we train ourselves to be more than broadcasters.
5. Schedule time for silence
This may be the hardest thing to do—to sit and be unproductive. To put away your phone, turn off the music, hide the laptop and just be. This isn’t reading time or eating time or any other activity time. It’s stillness. At first, the stillness may be unnerving, and that’s fine. Let yourself remain in that tension before resolving it. Use the time to think, reflect, pray. If you have to do something, use this time to mow the lawn or go for a walk. But don’t take any technology with you; trust yourself with just you and your thoughts. It’s not as bad as you might think.
In a culture addicted to the moment—where we have instant access to movies, media, food and even each other—why would we want to wait? Why would we ever consider living in the present? Maybe because that’s all we were ever promised. So, living in the present—the ability to connect with other people. Very important. I’ll continue with this subject of slowing down in Part 3.
(Read Slowing Down to Experience God – Part 3)