The Spiritual Practice of Slowness

The Spiritual Practice of Slowness January 17, 2013

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.

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