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Slowing Down in a World That’s Gaining Speed

Slowing Down in a World That’s Gaining Speed

When my family and I lived in Turkey a few years ago, we witnessed a pace of life we thought only existed half a century ago. A neighbor invited us over to their home at 2 p.m. on a Sunday. And before we could say “baklava,” we were all cramming into their car like clowns, headed for a teahouse down on the Aegean Sea shoreline.

Our afternoon was spent lingering over hot çay, sugar cubes, laughing children, and words mangled somewhere between two languages, adults laughing as we attempted conversation like toddlers. We would sip tea down by the water for hours, with no agenda, no rush to the next better thing, the red-fire sunset ablaze over Mediterranean waters.

Life was... slower. Savored.

It wasn’t perfect, of course. There were many challenges to living cross-culturally, and a slower pace of life didn’t compensate for the complexities of hovering somewhere between a natively Western worldview and Eastern mores.

But still, it was fascinating to experience life in the slow lane surrounded by electricity, subway systems, and fluorescent-lit grocery aisles. It was indeed possible to live slower in the twenty-first century, so we learned.

Fast-forward years later, and we’re well immersed back into our North American life. Smartphones were released sometime when we were abroad, so when we moved back, I saw many loved ones’ tops of their heads for the first time. People were absorbed in their handhelds, their heads, the four walls of their houses.

Eyes freshly opened, I saw there was a direct correlation between an obsession with self and an exhausting pace of life. Centering an entire day on productivity or effectiveness as a goal equaled very little focus on other people or relationships.

  • Jesus, of course, poured Himself out as an offering.

His world was slow when He fully touched earth, so that we could be wholly alive and whole with God. He is the embodiment, the very manifestation of sacrifice — the giving of self for other people. His agenda wasn’t on getting things done. And as a follower of His, I want to be like that too.

I want this so fervently — so why is it so hard to shift my focus, my center, my default, to other people? Why does it feel like a burning of my flesh and a rewiring of my brain to give up my to-do list in order to make time for people?

I want to put relationships first. Hearts before agendas. Lives ahead of schedules.

I want to die to my productivity, so I can truly be with people. And I have to remind myself daily that slowing down matters.

It matters because then I can hear people. It’s absolutely essential, really.

The more crammed our schedules, the less time we have to give others. When we only allow nooks and crannies in our days for rest, time alone, and self-care, then we are left threadbare to love others when they most need it. When our calendars are scribbled out in the margins because they are too full, we have no way to empty ourselves out in sacrifice.

  • If we want to put others first, like Jesus did, then we must. slow. down.

It’s the only way we can survive, thrive, be who we are meant to be in this rapid, rapid world.

My mind drifts back frequently to our life in the Middle East. Sure, my glasses are rose-colored, but what I remember most is how I felt. I felt... slower. More contemplative. More at rest with myself and those put purposely around me. There, we could equate our life’s measure not by boxes filled with pencil scratches but by how much freedom in our days we had to linger over çay with neighbors. With people. In relationship.

I think a slow life can happen anywhere, in any culture.

But it’s harder, and it requires swimming upstream, when we live in one where the default setting is lightning fast.

And we have to be vigilantly aware of this so that our fingers continually twist the dial on our life to slower, slower, slower.

A slower-paced life isn’t just a good idea, or hip, or wishful thinking. It’s essential if we want to have time to be the body of Christ.

~ Tsh Oxenreider

Excerpted with permission from Prayers to Help You Thrive by contributors: Christine Caine, Chike Chukudebelu, Katie Hardeman, Margaret Hogan, Denise Hildreth Jones, Shauna Niequist, Tsh Oxenreider, Rachel Randolph, Alece Ronzino, and Ruth Soukup. Copyright Zondervan.

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Your Turn

Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still and know that” He is God. Are you living at an exhausting pace of life? It’s the speed surrounding us, that’s for sure. If we want to follow Jesus and becoming like Him, we have to slow down to focus on other people rather than racing around zeroes in on ourselves and our plans. How can you slow down today? And, who around you can you linger with? ~ Devotionals Daily