Life…In the Slow Lane. (Pt.1)

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The average lifespan of a squirrel is about 6 years.
Turtles usually live more than 50 years & some have been documented to be over 150.
Turtles live longer than squirrels.
Maybe it’s the pace at which they live their lives.

Life in the Rat-Race

When I was in ministry training, many years ago, there was a strong pressure among my classmates to be really busy.  How effective we were was directly related (in our little minds) to how busy we looked.  This was the 90’s, after all.  It was the decade of the Rat-Race.  The true test of our level of success was the number of day-timers and gadgets we needed to keep up with our busy schedules.

It certainly looked successful.  We were too busy to chew our food.  Too busy to drive safely.  Too busy to talk to you if we couldn’t “network” with you.  We burned the wick at both ends.  We had places to go and people to see.  What we didn’t have was a quality of life that would last.  It is interesting to note that many of the highly successful people of the 90’s have left their rat-race lifestyles to become homesteaders or live the simple life in some other way.  Now, there are whole businesses based on teaching people how to live simply and cherish life.  There are also many businesses to help us regain the health we lost in the rat-race.  Life in the fast lane produced lifestyles and relationships that often were shallow and empty.  Many of us were moving too fast to even be nice.

I remember one time while I was a student, I was throwing a bridal shower for a friend.  I was in a frenzy trying to get everything done, squeezing way too much into the little time I had.  About an hour before the party was to begin, the doorbell rang.  I had guests an hour early!!!  I panicked.  The kitchen was a wreck from all the frantic cooking I was doing.  The party area wasn’t even decorated yet.  How could I have guests?  It was in this frame of mind that I answered the door.  Instead of a sweet welcome, I said a short, “What are you doing here?”  As the words left my mouth, I caught myself, but it was too late.  Her face fell.  My sweet, sweet friend had simply come to help me because she figured I would have too much to do on my own.  It’s been 20 years and I still regret that moment.  She was thinking of others.  I was not.  I was only thinking of my to-do list.

Don’t Let Work Come Before People

Another time, after my husband and I had been pastoring a few years, I was again in a frenzy.  I was trying to single-handedly run multiple children’s classrooms at once, sing on the praise team, make announcements and make sure the whole church was running smoothly.  In the midst of the mayhem, one of our precious mamas told me her son was about to have tonsil surgery.  I consoled with her a few minutes and moved on to the rest of my to-do list.  I never gave it another thought.  Her problem got lost in my overwhelming to-do list.  That dear mother had to sit in the hospital and watch them take her son without a single person from our ministry to help her.  Later, when she told me the surgery had gone well (which the first time I remembered it was even happening) I broke down and cried.  I was so devastated.  She was very understanding, but I was broken.  As I repented before the Lord for my utter neglect of His precious people He spoke something to my heart that I have never forgotten.  He said, “Don’t let the work of the ministry come before the people you to minister to.”

I haven’t always juggled things well in the years since those moments, but I have tried to learn to keep my priorities straight.  I still slip sometimes.  How many times have we snapped at the little children entrusted to our care because they interrupted our cleaning or cooking efforts.  Don’t let the work come before the people.

Living in a Hurry

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few years about the way we live our lives.  Our society is in a chronic rush.  We seem to have forgotten how to breathe.  We speed from one thing to another, generally too busy to see the people we are rushing past.  Our minds are not on what we are doing.  They have already rushed ahead to the next thing we need to get done.  We are in a hurry.  We have a problem.

You may say, it’s not a problem–it’s called “efficiency”.  I would argue that we aren’t nearly as efficient as we think we are.  Magnitude of motion does not equate productivity.  Just because we are scurrying and the paperwork is flying doesn’t mean we are operating at our optimum levels.  If we are honest, often we are making mistakes, backtracking, and stopping to regain our train of thought.  We forget things we needed to remember.  We miss things.  Our level of creativity is compromised.  We churn out the work like a hamster on a hamster wheel with little of the kind of creative thought that finds new and better ways to do things.  We are stressed and we are tired.

What’s worse, our relationships have suffered.  Often we are rude or inconsiderate — not because we are mean people, but because we are too hurried.  We are stressed because we are so hurried.  We don’t have time to wait for the teller to change out her drawer, or to be patient in the speedy check-out line when the person in front of us has too many items.  I have even seen people get irate when someone pulled out a checkbook to pay, because no one does that anymore.  It takes too much time.  It is far faster to pull out a debit card and swipe than to wait for someone to fill out a check.  So when someone takes the time to actually write the amount (!!!) the rest of the waiting line starts fidgeting and giving dirty looks.

I recently read a true story written by a man who had grown up in India.  His village had none of what we would consider to be the necessary modern influences.  He didn’t have internet or cars or television, but he grew up with strong family relationships, music, home cooked food and time.  Then he moved to New York City.  Talk about culture shock.  He told one story about going to a post office at Christmas time.  It was extra-crowded with people mailing Christmas packages.  Cars were double parked outside the building and the line was long.  But he was used to waiting when he lived in the Indian village.  He joined the line and began watching the people around him while he waited patiently.  One man was bouncing up and down — he was so agitated that he just had to release all the nervous energy somehow.  Another customer was literally breathing hot air down the Indian man’s neck.  So the man turned to the fire-breathing dragon and said, “Please take my place.  I’m not in a hurry.”  The guy was so agitated and distracted that he didn’t even understand him.  He roughly said, “What?”  The man from India repeated himself.  The dragon-man stared.  Then he slowly began to relax.  The atmosphere around them began to change.

You see, when we aren’t in such a hurry, we are able to see people as people instead of just the thing that is slowing us down.  This agitated man mumbled a sort of apology about being in a hurry and double parked.  But why was he double parked?  Was he really in so big of a rush that he couldn’t even park properly?

The story goes on.  The teller at the counter was flustered and making a lot of mistakes.  Every time she did, the customers got more irate.  Why?  Because they were in such a hurry and her mistakes were slowing them down.  The more irate the customers were, the more mistakes she made.  I can feel her pain.  I have been there.  When the man from India finally made it to the counter he said, “I’m from India.  Take your time.”  She looked at him in disbelief.  But she smiled and relaxed.  And she didn’t make any mistakes on his transaction, either.  He smiled back at her and as he left, he noticed other customers were smiling, too.  Just being willing to slow down and treat the teller like a real human being had changed the whole atmosphere.

His experience is not unique.  I have watched this happen repeatedly in my own life.  Slowing down and being kind has helped me diffuse situations and conduct my business more efficiently countless times.  But we have to step out of the rat-race in order to consistently live this way.  If you got up late, rushed around trying to get everyone out the door, grabbed a doughnut as you sped off to work late again, it is highly unlikely that you are going to speak a few friendly words to your neighbor or the teller at Krispy Kreme.  You just don’t have time.  And heaven forbid the person in line in front of you can’t decide if she wants caff or decaf.  Often, we respond inconsiderately because we have so overcrowded our day that we don’t have time to consider.  It takes time to put yourself in the shoes of another person and see things from their perspective.  We need to slow down the pace.

A Better Life in the Slow Lane

Slowing down does more than improve relationships and bolster creativity.  Slowing down improves our health, both mentally and physically.  When we live in a rush, we live under a great deal of self-imposed pressure.  That kind of pressure is incredibly stressful.  Study after study links stress to disease.  If you want to reduce your risk for disease, you need to reduce your stress levels.  If you want to reduce the level of stress in your life, a big key is learning to live more slowly.  Besides, living life more slowly will help you eat better because you finally have time for something besides fast-food.

When it comes to our mental health, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that exhaustion and stress are probably not contributing to a peaceful mind.  I sometimes wonder how many anti-depressants people would need if lifestyles in our society changed.   I mean, honestly, which would you find more relaxing to your mental state?  Having the time each day to build meaningful relationships with the people you love and work on a hobby you enjoy?  Or trying to mentally “push” the stuck traffic to move a little faster so you can get through your over-crowded to-do list?  I know which one I’d pick.  In fact, I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying to find my path there.  Next time I will tell you some of the things I am rearranging in my life so that I can learn to live more slowly.

Have a slow day!

Angela

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2 Comments

  1. Slowing down has been critical for my sanity. With 6 children and 2 of them toddlers, nothing happens at the speed I'd like. Slowing down keeps me patient with the varying needs of my family.

    Thank you for the great post.

  2. Most of my kids are older now and everything STILL takes more time than I'd like. I think somehow we've bought the lie that we should be doing more than we are (no matter how much we are already doing.) That kind of pressure isn't doing anyone any favors.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I hope you enjoy the other two posts in the series. Have a great day, Sara!

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