Slowing Down: Taking Life’s Measure

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    Life rushes. It doesn’t stop unless you interrupt it, or unless God interrupts it. We are caught up as in the sweep of a powerful river. But it is easy and comfortable to float in this swift current that we have made for ourselves, this personalized surge that each of us finds so familiar.

    For many of us, slowing down—stepping out of the river—requires tremendous effort. It involves a restructuring of all that we do and are and think, which is a kind of death. But in this “death” we are able to learn that life is more than the current in which we’re so comfortably caught up. Life isn’t a Nine-to-Five. It isn’t groceries and gas. Life isn’t a bigger home or a better school. It isn’t a new building project for our church.

    Slowing down, stepping out of the river, allows us to separate what is life from what is not. We live and act in line with what we believe. And authentic living is kingdom living. So if Christ has made us (and is making us) new, then it is not for escaping our world that we are made, but for living in it, imitating him and participating with him in its redemption. And if we understood and believed that this kingdom life is authentic life, then we would be living it daily in our homes, in our jobs, in our communities and world, and in our churches. It would be the ruler by which we measure our lives.

    Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when . . . ?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Matthew 25:34–37,40).

    In the busyness of life we are caught up in ourselves. The naked, the hungry, the imprisoned, the poor, and the oppressed have no voice there. They cry out, but we cannot hear.

    We must hear.

    Authentic living requires things of us, often simple things. It means leaving the office at a decent hour. It means loving the person who insults you. It means being kind to your spouse who, in his or her weariness, snaps at you as you walk through the door. Sometimes it means saying no to your church. Sometimes it means saying no to something you enjoy in order to say yes to your church. It means being prepared so that when your child asks about a sacred tradition in your home you will be willing and able to tell the story.

    Slowing down is doing life differently, living life deliberately. It means being courageous enough to step into the closet and pray. It means including other people in your dreams. It means hearing the cry of the oppressed and being Christ to them.

    Slowing down is stepping out of the river from time to time so that the sweep of it never again carries you away. Slowing down does not mean abandoning your life, but recreating it, bringing the kingdom into your life in such a way that it flows red with it.

    In the end, of course, we are talking about sabbathing. We sabbath daily as we step into our closets to pray. We sabbath weekly by worshiping God within our faith communities and meditating upon him. Our church calendars, rich with opportunities to sabbath, allow us to slow down and re-center throughout the year. We interrupt ourselves, we slow down, so that we may see God and draw our lives nearer the circle of his.

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