Ironically, the strongest pressure to “grow fast,” instead of slow, came during the years when I started writing books about Jesus. I say this is ironic, because nothing Jesus ever said communicated an ethic of “grow fast.”
Let me explain how it happened for me. This isn’t something we authors talk much about publicly, but there’s an expectation of growth in the publishing industry. Growth in sales. Growth in influence. Growth in something called “platform,” which is essentially an indication of how many people follow you on social media. If you have a decent-sized platform, it signals to the publisher that you have a built-in audience who already likes what you have to say. This is not a criticism of the publishing industry. Publishing houses have to pay to keep the lights on, and they can’t take on everybody who wants to write a book.
At the time when my publishing career took off, I was considered a “small-platform author.” I knew what a blessing it was to get a book contract. Sometimes I thought I had snuck in the back door of the publishing house when no one was looking. (There’s a name for this: imposter syndrome. It’s usually accompanied by an author curling into a fetal position and rocking back and forth in the corner during the final stages of writing. Yes, I was a ball of positivity while composing the paragraphs that became this book.)
As my publishing career took off, internal pressure mounted. I knew that if my first book didn’t sell well, there would be no chance of getting another book published.
Growing Slow didn’t feel like an option.
The Enneagram 3 performer in me was up for the challenge. There were social media platforms to learn. New ways to connect with readers. New audiences to reach in states where I’d never set foot before. It felt exciting for a while, but there were nights when I stretched out on my hotel room bed in some never-before-visited state with the drapes closed, when I felt gutted, hollowed out.
Meanwhile, as months turned to years, I watched new influencers and entrepreneurs hop onto the scene. In just a few months, it seemed, they were mastering the same platforms I’d been feeding with daily content for years. Twenty-somethings with perfect skin, hair extensions, and a branded look danced across arena stages in Converse. Their fast growth was being rewarded.
And here I was… Growing Slow.
The urge to run faster and work harder was undeniable. Yet a question began to emerge: Do I really want a fast life that rubs me raw?
I had to ask myself, In the rush to become a “somebody,” have I forgotten that I already am?
Slow change began. And I emphasize the word slow here. It began in hotel rooms, with late nights of scrambling to schedule the next day’s social media posts. With the readjustment of work priorities. With the stripping of my schedule. And finally, with the visit to the doctor who told me my physical problems were the result of a hurried heart.
All systems pointed to one conclusion: Growing Slow was no longer an option but a necessity.
This new and strange slowness coincided with the slow growth on our farm. That whole rainy spring, everything felt behind, not quite what it should be, because the wet fields prevented planting.
One day, on one of my prayer drives, I found myself on the skinny dirt road that borders the back 80. I pulled over to the side of the road, rolled down my window, and snapped a photo of the wet and crop-less field. A bank of clouds inched across the horizon. In that moment, something important hit me. I have so often felt the way that field looked: with no growth evident because planting was running behind. At key points in my life, I’ve felt behind — behind in my career, in my life trajectory, and, as a late bloomer in faith, even in my spirituality.
That awareness shifted something in me. My fear of falling behind had been a reason for my rushed existence. It’s why I felt like I had to be so insanely productive all the time, as if life is a constant game of catch-up. Even my calendar made me feel behind, with all those little squares waiting for neat Xs. Hop on Instagram for about two seconds, and you can get this weird sense of who’s ahead of you — and how far you need to go.
If life is a marathon, many of us are comparing our first mile to someone else’s twenty-sixth. Our hearts and bodies suffer self-inflicted wounds when we do this.
Our culture will make you think there are milestones. But there aren’t. You aren’t a cornfield. You are a person. You aren’t a corn seed. You are a soul. The growth in you isn’t dependent on weather or the right kind of fertilizer. Your progress can’t be predicted by the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Here’s the thing nobody talks about when it comes to your pace of growth: There are no set milestones. Not for when you get married. Not for when you have kids — or even if you have them. Not for when you earn a certain salary or master a certain set of tasks. There just aren’t milestones for any of these things.
Sometimes, you look around at everyone else’s progress and feel like you’re a failure.
Their dreams are coming true.
Their kids are making the honor roll.
Their marriages are fruitful and fun.
Their businesses are thriving.
Meanwhile, you’ve just got a pocketful of unfulfilled dreams that leave you dissatisfied. You have setbacks and little fruit to show for your hard work. You feel weak, like you’re failing. Deep inside, you wonder if you’re disappointing God.
Friend, you are not failing, I promise you.
Is weakness all you’ve got right now? God can work with weakness. Scripture says that’s the place where the Spirit steps in to help us.1
Do you feel like giving up, even though you know God has called you to this task? If that’s you, chin up, friend. Be steadfast and immovable, “knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”2
If you saw your progress the way God does, you’d never doubt for a moment that you’re making a difference.
We don’t need more memes or motivational speakers to sell us a new way to move ahead. We need permission to be where we are.
Did you know you are allowed to walk at your own pace? You are allowed to shut down the computer at five o’clock. You are allowed to take the time you need to figure things out. There’s no such thing as an overnight success, and your life will not be ruined if you stick to your steady pace.
In the race between the tortoise and the hare, remember who won.
Look around you: there is growth in your fields, inching heaven-ward, not with brute force, but by the will of the Divine Farmer who makes all things beautiful in their time. A corn plant never compares itself to the one beside it. It never fights the clock or doubts the harvest will come. In that back 80, Scott eventually planted millions of corn seeds, each one no bigger than a fingernail. Weeks later than was typical, the first leaf emerged, followed by a second, then a third. In time, each plant was tasseled and silked and did all the other miraculous things a corn plant does until it reaches full maturity.
At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.3
The harvest is coming. In its time. You are not falling behind.
- Romans 8:26
- 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV
- Galatians 6:9 MSG
Excerpted with permission from Growing Slow by Jennifer Dukes Lee, copyright Jennifer Dukes Lee.
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You’re not falling behind! You might be in a rush, but God definitely isn’t! Your work isn’t in vain even when you don’t see the harvest right away. Give it time! Your season will come! ~ Devotionals Daily