Living More Slowly

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
~ Matthew 11:28-30

Following God in Jesus' day had become complicated. There were all sorts of rules you had to follow (over 600 + the 10 commandments). Not everyone agreed about how to apply those rules so you all had to be familiar with the debates and commentaries about the rules. The temple, the place where you should be able to encounter God, had become a marketplace filled with money changers and sheep sellers. It was hard to even hear yourself speak in the din, yet alone to hear the still small voice of God.

If anything, our world has grown more complicated, more chaotic, more noisy in the 2,000 years since. Text messages and e-mails constantly ping or buzz for our attention. Kids schedules are more full than ever with some sports commitments beginning in kindergarten or even earlier. And for the academically minded there are AP classes starting already in Junior High. There is a constant pressure to do more, be present more, respond more, engage more, until finally many collapse into bed exhausted at the end of the day or week.

Sometimes, rather than setting us free from the unrealistic and demanding burdens of our world, church simply piles on more obligations. Sunday morning worship. Small groups. Youth events. Service projects. With multiple opportunities for each of these. And all these things need volunteers to make them happen and suddenly church is no longer a place to connect with God, but a place to work. One more demand and obligation. We begin to do church rather than be the church.

Mike Breen, the founder of 3DM, teaches that believers need a balance of Up-In-and-Out in their lives. By that he means we need times when we connect with God (in corporate worship and quiet reflection), times when we connect with other believers and share our lives together, and times when we bless/serve others (think of Camp Zion, the PCP, Hand2Hand, and also Children's Ministries and Youth Groups). 

James Bryan Smith in his Good and Beautiful spiritual formation series starts by training people to slow down, get enough sleep, and spend time in quiet every day. Peter Scazzero in his Emotionally Healthy series over and over again comes back to the need for us to slow down if we are to grow in spiritual and emotional health and learn to live within the limits God has set. And everyone acknowledges that the most violated command God has given is to observe the sabbath. 

As I read and talk with the thought leaders around discipleship and how to follow God well in our modern world, one theme emerges every time. We need to slow down and give more time to our relationship with God and to the deep reflection and soul work real spiritual change requires. 

This is a part of Lent, saying 'no' to something (we call it fasting) so we have time and energy to say 'yes' to God. It is not a burden, but an opportunity to slow down, set aside the burdens we have placed on ourselves, and pick up the yoke of Christ and allow him to help us carry it.

What might you say 'no' to today so you have time and energy to say 'yes' to God?

   © zion reformed church 2012