As I write there is a weeklong event taking place in England called “Slow Down London.” It is a protest of sorts against that city’s fast pace of life. People are being encouraged, through a number of opportunities, to stop rushing about and enjoy living, to slow down for the sake of their physical and emotional health.
North Americans are no strangers to the fast-paced life. Between the Internet, cell phones, and television (not to mention the great American work ethic) we complain to one another, “I’m SO busy!” To be truthful, a part of us feels good about this because we think our busyness testifies to the fact that we are important and purposeful. But are we overdoing it? Do we, too, need to slow down?
Last year there came a time when I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep up with a life controlled by the clock.
Life had become a daily grind, a constantly moving treadmill, and I didn’t have a clue how to get off. I knew I needed to slow down and build space into my life, but I was afraid. Time and again I would try a new coping mechanism so I wouldn’t have to risk my security by making a change. Eventually it became clear to me that I had no choice but to do something scary and radical: cut back my hours at work (and my paycheck) and fiercely negotiate more freedom at home.
In the beginning I felt like I was in freefall. I had no idea when I was going to hit bottom or be caught. But gradually I began to breathe without tension, and life began to open up. I found time to walk, to sit in silence, to pray—even to play (how crazy is that?). My mind gradually shifted from thoughts of performing my next duty to an opening awareness of time and space and grace.
I’ve become aware that the more I really see the ordinary things of life—the way the sunlight comes through the window, the sound of silence, the food before me, the snoring of a sleeping dog, even the tears that fall down my cheek and the pain inside me—the more I see the Creator of life and the Giver of all good gifts, the one who is present with me in joy and in sorrow.
Everyone can benefit from the practice of making space for God. After all, if we exercise our bodies for our physical well-being, we should also exercise our spirits by entering into the scary silence that allows God to speak to our hearts and enter our lives in a more intimate way. I have found that taking time to open my life to God does not lead to absence but to presence. And that presence is full of kindness and mercy.
For me, the practice of making room has paid off in ways I never could have imagined, in ways that I don’t yet fully understand. I am learning to let go of fear. I am feeling a sense of abundance and gratitude. And I am growing in freedom. The blessings are not coming in extraordinary ways, but are simple gifts that have been available to me all along. I was just too busy to notice.