Have you heard of the "Slow Movement"? The Slow Movement began in Rome in the mid 80's when a McDonald's was being built in one of the neighborhoods. The idea of a fast food restaurant offended the sensibilities of members of that community, who valued the richness and flavors of food cooked with quality ingredients made in a traditional way. However, what bothered them the most was the fact that the speed at which modern life moves robs people of the richness of relationships, which can only be nurtured in deep conversations and time spent together. For them, grabbing a quick meal on the run from a McDonald's epitomized the problem. Relationships are nurtured around the dinner table, as people stop, sit, and talk. Good food puts people in a good mood. It slows them down. A meal together provides the opportunity for people to enter into conversation and build relationships. Dinner together does more than provide substance for the body, it provides the time and space needed to establish the relationships which hold civilization together.
Thus, the "Slow Movement" was born. Its philosophy is that the best way to cope with the speed of change in our fast-paced world is not to speedup, but to slow down. It feels counter-intuitive. If the world is moving faster, then, if we want to keep up, we should too. However, this leads to burnout. Rather, by slowing down, we center our lives and build community, which provides us with the necessary tools to cope with the fast pace of society. More than that, it increases the quality of life. It's not the speed of life nor all the things that we acquire that make life worth living; rather a full life is found in the relationships we build and the beauty that we experience. As Thomas Merton, the 20th century Christian monk and contemplative, wrote, "We must slow down to a human tempo and we'll begin to have time to listen. And as soon as we listen to what's going on, things will begin to take shape by themselves."
The Slow Movement has taken on many forms, and it has something to teach us about our spiritual lives. Or, better put, it has something to remind us about our spiritual lives. When we slowdown and spend some quiet time with God each day building our relationship with God then our lives become richer and have more meaning. Developing the discipline of quiet time with God relieves stress and helps us find joy in life.
This isn't a quick fix. It takes time. Building our relationship with God, just like strengthening our relationship with others, is a slow process. It develops as we spend time in quiet reflection. Many people who begin a practice of devotion and quiet time become discourage because they don't see any immediate effects from it. Others become disheartened because it is hard. Sitting quietly is difficult – there are so many distractions, and our crazy schedules can make it seem like a waste of time, which is already limited. It can seem unnatural for many people too, especially if you are an extrovert or a "go getter."
I understand. It is hard for me. There are times that I feel that I am just too busy. I like being around people and talking, so sitting quietly or journaling is not my first impulse. However, I find that when I keep this practice then my life is better, and I have more peace in my life. When I let my discipline slip, life is more difficult and my stress level rises.
As a new year begins, I encourage you to slowdown. Spend some time each day in devotion and sitting quietly with God. Start off slowly and let it grow. Make a commitment to attend worship each week, setting aside that time for God. In a busy week slowing down for a morning for worship is important. Don't expect immediate results, but give it time. Allow God to work in you and on you, as you slowdown your life, creating space and time for God and others. In doing so you will find that 2018 will be a good year, regardless of the stress and grief that will inevitably will appear.
Happy New Year and Blessing,