Fast Food. Instant coffee. Speedy boarding. Feeling frustrated with the person driving at the speed limit in the fast lane. Why are we so determined to do everything quickly?
I doubt that many of us actually believe that ‘faster is always better’ (instant coffee, anyone?), but most of us behave like it. In all sorts of ways we’ve abandoned quality in favour of velocity.
And we do it because we’re addicted.
We’re addicted, consciously or not, to acceleration. We ‘live and move and have our being’ within a capitalist, consumerist culture that insists on measuring everything in terms of productivity and efficiency. One that screams; “Try harder!”, “Do things better!”, “Do things faster!”, “And whatever you do, don’t waste time!”.
We’re like “Scrooge with a stopwatch”, writes Carl Honoré in his book, In Praise of Slow, “cramming more into every hour, stretching ourselves to breaking point.”
We need to slow down.
One of the most popular activities in prayer spaces in schools is called “Be Still”.
Typically, this will be a gazebo or a tent in a corner, filled with cushions and a couple of lava lamps. It’s a place for pupils to just be for a few minutes, to reflect on themselves and their relationships – maybe to think about the world or even about God.
It’s not high-tech, and it’s not even that interactive, but pupils will often queue up for their turn in the tent.
In the feedback afterwards, “Be Still” is often highlighted as the favourite activity in the prayer space. Pupils describe their lives as busy all the time, either working in school or online, and they are grateful for the unexpected opportunity to slow down.
We’re all longing, consciously or not, for stillness. And we need to take steps to make it part of our lives.
Here are two important reasons why:
Firstly, to know ourselves. When my friend asks, “How are you?” and I reply, “I’m busy!” it’s a sign that I’ve forgotten who I am; it’s a symptom of my addiction.
Like the prodigal son’s brother, I’m justifying myself in terms of what I’ve been doing, rather than who God has made me. This is why the Sabbath exists – one of the reasons God insisted on this weekly rest day is to defy our addiction to acceleration. The Sabbath isn’t just an opportunity to rest – it’s also about remembering who we are.
“are you tired? Come to me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Jesus
Matthew 11:28-30 (THE MSG)
The second reason to slow down is one that’s easily forgotten. To know God. This full reality comes when we stop and allow God, our creator, to be the most important priority in our lives.
“Be still and know that I am God”
Be still and know.