On Slowing Down
This May through August my wife Amy and I will be on sabbatical until August. It's an amazing benefit of three months of rest, renew and study plus a month of vacation that our church provides for pastors after their seventh year of ministry. We are looking forward to slowing down, making pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Assisi and Orvieto and parts of England and Scotland and engaging in rhythm of spiritual practices without the normal distractions of everyday life. I have the opportunity to preach while the choir sings in Kiev and Moscow. We are also looking forward to celebrating 25 years of marriage (June 22), 20 years of ordained ministry (April 1) and 50 years of life for both of us in 2010.
Understandably there's lots of planning to do in preparation for being gone for an extended period of time. There's the planning of what we're going to do and the planning of what will happen while we're gone, and there's the planning of what we need to do before I leave. Lots of planning makes it crunch time for me.
So, with perfect timing, I was home last week with a severe allergic reaction. This week I'm at home resting from the hernia surgery I had on Monday. Two weeks out of the office right in the middle of this crunch time.
Bad timing or God's timing?
Leighton Ford tells a story in The Attentive Life (p106) about Bruce Chatwin, a travel writer in Australia, who gave a ride to his aboriginal friend on a pilgrimage to the land of his youth to discover the meaning of his own life. Chatwin slowed down his Land Cruiser to what he thought was a slow 25 mph, but the aborigine "jumped around from one window to the other, almost frantic, singing out the names of the places he was seeing and trying to remember." The man realized he was driving at the wrong speed and slowed down to a 4 mph pace that a person could walk. "Thus the song of the man, the speed of the ride and the recovery of his spirit could match. The aboriginal knew in his soul what Chatwin learned: there is a connection between our speek and the health of our spirit."
Recovery from hernia surgery requires walking slowly. Walking slowly because speeding up hurts. But walking slowly helps me take notice of those things that I speed by to quickly: the cool breeze, the ocean waves, the vibrant flowers, the cracks in the sidewalk, the woman pulling her shopping cart, the cabbies at the train station playing chess. Slowing down reminds me of each muscle God gave me that normally works without a hitch. Slowing down helps me breathe and pray simple prayers of thanks for health, for the beauty of the day, for family and friends, for purpose and calling in this community that I walk in so slowly, and to notice what God is doing in me right now.
Sometimes we have to slow down to tend to those things most important. Sometimes it's our bodies, and sometimes it's our soul.
But it's hard.