The Spiritual Practice of Slowness

I was strangely moved by that almost final scene in the movie Lincoln, when the president walks away, his back to the camera, down the long White House hallway and into the shadows. Of course we,  the audience, know Lincoln is walking down that hall for the final time. We know he is on his way to Ford’s Theater and we know what waits for him there.

But that’s not what moved me as I watched that scene. What moved me was the slow deliberation of Lincoln’s strange, lanky gait. As I watched that man walk the hallway, all I could think was how I long to walk that slowly, how I long for the kind of confidence that allows a person to move with purposeful slowness.

What does it even mean to move slowly in our culture? How can we possibly do it?

I woke up exhausted again yesterday morning. So far my attempts at a 5 am wake up have been miserable. I’m trying to go to bed at 10. Usually what that means is I’m almost done with whatever I’m doing at 10 so I let myself get a few more things done. Then I get ready for bed. Then I read. Then I fall asleep around 11. (Or 11:30.) Turns out waking up at 5 am is too early if you miss bed time.

But what I haven’t done is let go of some of the load. I haven’t let go because I don’t know how to. But my word for 2013 is Enough. There is Enough Time in each day for the things that are important. I’m choosing to believe that. I want to believe that the enough I have to give is actually enough.

Can I reshape my life into something slow enough that my pace actually cultivates space for rest? Can I move at a pace that helps me recognize that I’m a lot less important than I think I am? Can I practice real humility, the kind that reminds me what is actually true around me: that I am so deeply loved that I don’t have to be in control? Can I make space for peace and stillness simply by asking God to change my heart?

Over the past two weeks as I’ve felt God speaking “Enough” to my spirit, I’ve felt so much more aware of how I hurry and how my rushing from thing to thing is shaping my kids. Brooksie has decided he hates being put into his carseat. He has decided he wants to take his very sweet time climbing into the seat, looking around, thinking about turning around, then actually plopping onto his bottom before I lock him in. This process takes around three minutes. If I rush him, there is screaming: back arched, face bright red screaming. It’s not worth the battle. And in those moments when time is passing and I’m fuming: “Brooksie, we are late. You need to sit onto your bottom right now!” I’ve felt God saying: Slow down, baby. Slow down, babe. God is saying slow down to me. Slow down in this moment. Right here. Let your child move at his pace.

And as I’ve stood still in the garage for 30 seconds longer, awkwardly trying to think of something to do for that unfilled moment of the day, I’ve laughed at myself. Seriously? I constantly lament not having time  in my day for prayer! I wax long about the demands of  motherhood and my inability to connect with God. In waiting for my children, I actually find time to pause, to breathe, to pray, to notice what I’m thankful for. The pace of children is a gift if I choose to let it be.

Slow down, babe.

As I write this, there is a little boy on the couch across the room whose mind is full of breathtaking ideas. Right now he’s a cheetah super hero who can turn into a puma through special magic power. Yesterday he cried at the playground when a kid named Ollie ran an elbow into his mouth beside the slide. My boy across the room is in batman pajamas with a cape attached. And when he runs down the hall, it flaps behind him like a sheet in the breeze in Spring. I can’t believe how beautiful it is.

Can I see the world (and my place in it) by standing still every once in a while and letting is float past me?

There are a lot of questions in this post. But maybe the answer is pretty simple.

I keep thinking of Lincoln in that hallway. And when I do, I slow my steps. I walk like a person who is really not that important after all. I walk like my being on time or getting whatever it is done does not make me more or less loved. I am whole because of Christ.

I can walk slow because I am enough.

  • Shea

    I have been reading your blog for a year now and this is my first comment! I find that I always identify with your posts. As a busy mom of three kids, I, too, am trying to slow down, be more joyful and less stressed, and believe that I am enough just as I am. I love this post, especially how you equate the slow, purposeful walk of Lincoln with confidence. I have never thought of it that way. It does take confidence to move slowly, to not worry about what you’re not accomplishing in those moments. Thank you for pointing that out…and for sharing your thoughts and experiences here:)

  • Kelly @ Love Well

    This goes against the grain, doesn’t it? Slowing. It’s the heart of Sabbath, really. I was drawn to study the concept of Sabbath a few years ago, and it marked me. It’s one of the only commands the Western evangelical Christian shrugs their shoulders at. And we suffer for it.

    (Of the early morning rising, I cannot speak. One of my greatest discontentments with myself right now, as a mother of 4 ages 2-11 is that I am not a morning person. My life would be so much easier if I could go to bed at night and get up early in the morning. Alas. This body of sin and this night-owl temperament.)

  • Gail Hatch

    Thank you so much for the imagery of Lincoln walking so slowly as though you can feel the seconds ticking or is it the heart beating? I have just had a “slow down there is enough time” day–rare for me. Dwelling on each moment of the ordinary while hearing the hum of the refrigerator, the buzz of an airplane above, the quiet breeze rustling outside the kitchen. This kind of day brings a wholeness for me because it means I have been “tending to” tasks and parts of my life that seldom get touched. When I tend to things I realize there is enough time if I am willing to let go of frenetic errands or emails and “be still”, as Psalm 46 urges us. It reminds me of the time I was driving with my adult son merging on to a freeway while anxiously fretting out loud saying, “there is just not enough space and time to merge into the far lane where I need to be in!” His reply startled me because it was so true. He simply said, “there is not a lot of space and time, but there is enough time and you’ll make it!” The Holy Spirit is urging us to live this way. There is enough time if we believe it and tend to it. Thank you for your words and the fun of reading responses and knowing there are so many soul mates out there!

  • Catherine

    I so needed to hear that. Thank you.

  • Alicia

    I absolutely LOVED this post ! Thank you !!!! These are the very refreshing kind of words one needs to hear. Words that are true and practical, just the way Jesus always taught. You have touched on struggles I am having in my own life, both as parent and as a woman fighting for her Me Time. And you are so right in drawing the parallel of humility and “being enough”. Thank you again… This was very inspiring… To know that we do all struggle – but ultimately we struggle TOGETHER. (I am aiming for 5am wake-ups too… and look at me reading your blog at past 11pm, my time!)

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  • http://n/a VG

    I go back and forth with my wife on this topic. I think she does too much at times but sometimes her doing (eg – riding a horse) is soothing and good for her, equal almost to how we may think of just chilling out on the couch, taking a nap, or going on a walk. The same goes for me with cleaning the house. Any thoughts on how doing sometimes can compliment slowness?

  • Joy Lenton

    Slowing down physically has been a way of life for me since chronic illness struck many years ago. Though my flesh protests against it and pacing is so hard to do! But does that mean I slow down mentally? No way. The brain can be buzzing even when the body is stilled. With my children now young adults living independent lives, the pace is set by my own agenda instead of theirs. Having received the words “Be still” from the Lord a few weeks ago, I sense them being repeated louder here. To cease the inner striving is a lesson I am still learning and it may take some time!
    Hearing your word for 2013 is ‘enough’ is also a wake-up call to appreciate the here and now and see each day in the light of His grace always being more than enough. Thanks, Micha, for this needful word. May you be abundantly blessed as you seek to live it out in your own life.

  • Melody

    Loved that scene in Lincoln too. Your words here have made it all the more meaningful!

  • Andrea Baker

    Thank you, Micha. A much-needed and little-spoken word.