I still remember the conversation.
Walking along a gravel path in the woods of eastern Kansas over 20 years ago, I first heard a truth that makes more sense the older I get:
“Busyness is a serious obstacle, if not one of the main obstacles, to Christian growth and spiritual maturity.”
To be honest, I was surprised to hear it at the time. Surely, I thought, there were more temptations to the Christian life than…busyness.
It’s interesting that if the church still talks about sin at any great length, it usually harps on the social sins – those outward behaviors which can easily distinguish those who belong (us) from those who don’t belong (them), the righteous (us) from the unrighteous (them), the saints (us) from the sinners (them).
Yet if the DNA of sin could be seen under a microscope, I wonder if we’d see two dominant threads of genes, especially as it characterizes the western church – selfishness and busyness.
If sin, by its very nature, is anti-social, then it stands to reason that selfishness (the very epitome of being anti-social) makes up quite a large portion of sin’s DNA. (Conversely, it’s not by chance that the essence of Christianity is relational — love God and love others.) Selfishness is as ancient as Genesis, so it really comes as no surprise that sin and selfishness are such good buddies.
What is more surprising – and more recent — is the Western church’s capitulation to modern culture’s hectic pace. Busyness is laying waste to the church both corporately and individually. All of us are being swept down the fast-moving current of busyness and we usually never recognize how far down the river we are until it is too late. And, by “far down the river”, I mean how disconnected we are relationally — both from God and others. If the church is serious about relational Christianity and spiritual growth, we need to address both of these dominant strands of sin’s DNA, one ancient and one more recent.
Personally, I need to look selfishness in the face and own up to it. (The ancients used to call it repentance.) Likewise, I need to have a healthy relationship with my calendar which means it takes orders from me -- not the other way around. A healthy relationship with my calendar means, quite simply, that I am the boss.
Slow is good for the soul. Slow is good for relationships. There is a basic contemplative “posture” to the Christian life that I am increasingly being led to believe is simply part and parcel of spiritual growth which is only nurtured by slowness (rather than through a hectic pace) and by embracing (rather than denying) one’s limits.
I have come to the realization that “slow is necessary” for the spiritual life. It didn’t come without a fight. “Fast-ness” still rears its ugly head. If I never recognize the battle, I lose every time. But, the good news is that the more I recognize the battle (and the importance of the battle), the more likely I am to gain the upper hand.
Slow is necessary. Soul-food is difficult to swallow at the drive-thru.
See also: "Slow is Beautiful".