Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Slowing Down

It is fairly popular today to tell people to "slow down" in order to improve their life. In a world where marketers and culture is saying "Buy more! Do more! Get more! Have more! Be more!" it is only natural that some segment rises up to fight back against it. The "slow down" movement instead says to have less, do less, and that ultimately, "less is more."

Now notice I only said it is popular to tell people to slow down in order to improve their life. I never said it was popular for people to actually do it. You see, it is far easier to talk about  than follow through on, because if we follow through on it then we might get bored or miss out. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a real thing, and it keeps people from slowing down even when they say they want to. This seems to be especially true in the realm of making decisions.

When was the last time you took a significant amount of time in order to make a decision on something? Now I am not talking about analysis paralysis when choosing whether to buy Cereal A or Cereal B. Rather, when was the last time that you put a decision on hold in order to figure out what was should be done in a given situation?

Often there is a great deal of pressure upon us to make a decision "right now." The pressure says that if we do not decide right now, we will miss the opportunity and be stuck always having wondered what could have been, and we will never get another chance like this one. Its "now or never," and we've got to "strike while the iron is hot," less this one and only chance escapes our grasp forever.

Now to be fair, there are occasional circumstances where we must make a decision quickly. There are moments where time is up and something has to happen. But more and more I am beginning to feel like that is the exception rather than the rule. Where the world around us (especially in marketing) tells us you have to choose now, in reality, we do not. How many times have you seen an email or commercial saying "Last Chance for 20% off!!! Today Only!!! Final Sale for Real this Time!!" only to see another one the following week saying very nearly the same thing? How often have you felt pressured to make a decision about something in life right now when waiting a day or two would make very little difference if any at all?

In those moments when pressure is being applied to decide now, I want to encourage you to take a step back, figure out if it really must be decided on right this instant and if not, take a breather and take some time to move through the process of making the decision.

In the ancient world it looks like this is what people did. There were no cars or planes. There were no phones or emails. If you wanted to do something or get something chances were it would take at least a few days before it would even be possible to get there. Then you had to go through the process of the work without modern technology and get back. Life moved at a slower pace because the environment demanded it. There was no other option.

It is this slower pace of life that (I believe) encouraged and enabled people to take the time to make decisions on important matters. I also believe that this led to a less stressful life with a deeper sense of meaning about what was happening. When we rush through decision after decision based on whim or feeling or a random internet review we might "do" a lot but the decisions are often shallow. When we take our time to think through choices, see what they will cost us, and discover whether or not they are truly worthy of our time we may "do" less, but the decisions carry a good deal more weight and allow us to experience more deeply the things that we actually care about. Furthermore, it allows us to make better decisions and end up with better results.

The book of Acts if full of waiting and taking time to make decisions. In chapter 1 the disciples are praying, fellow-shipping, and waiting for the promised Helper. In chapter 6 they take time to seek out men worthy of the service of widows. In chapter 13 Barnabas and Paul are appointed to be missionaries only after spending time fasting and teaching with the church in Jerusalem, and the list goes on and on. We read it as one thing happening after another, but there are days, weeks, and months between many or most of these events and choices being made. Those down-times are often spent fasting, praying, and seeking God's will. They take time to figure things out and, more importantly, they take time bringing their needs and questions before the only One who can truly give them the answer.

We need to ask ourselves, are we taking the time to do this? With everything going on and the pressure to "get more done," are we relying on the help of our Father and King, or are we relying on our own instincts and desires?

I want to encourage you to take the time needed to slow down and make decisions thoughtfully, slowly, and prayerfully. Let us as a people reject the frantic hamster wheel of decision-making the world desires to place on us, and be a people who seek God's will and take the time the listen for His answer before giving ourselves over to something.

Let us be a people of depth and weight, and allow our God to bring us into that depth and weight on His time, through His plans.