“Do you always read to your kids like that?” she queried.
My friend was referring to my rendition of a Dr. Seuss classic delivered at tongue-twister speed from a rocking chair in the church nursery:
“Would you like them in a house?
Would you like them with a mouse?
Would you eat them in a box?
Would you eat them with a fox?” (Green Eggs and Ham)
“Just Dr. Seuss,” I replied. “It’s funnier if you read it fast.”
She grinned and raised an eyebrow. “You do everything fast.”
She was right, and I think she truly meant it as a compliment, but she spoke more truth than she knew. I have always lived hard-wired for hurry. That became uncomfortable (even claustrophobic!)) in a season of serial pregnancies and full-time mothering. Hands full and lap full, I longed for productivity even though I knew—I KNEW—that true success might actually require sitting in a chair and holding a sick baby all day. It might mean reading out loud to my older kids while I held the youngest, just to maintain infrastructure and rule of law. You can polish off an entire Boxcar Children book that way, but really…? How do you cross that off a to-do list?
Fast forward a couple of decades, and I don’t spend much time in the church nursery anymore. These days the challenge is to make room for meaningful time with my grandchildren when there are green beans to can, writing deadlines to meet, or teaching notes to prepare.
Sometimes, in the providence of God, it’s the simple act of living alongside the women in my church that puts my multi-tasking, hair-on-fire heart into a position to be challenged and changed. God uses my sisters in Christ to bring me along the way, as I discover that time management secrets are best shared by those who have learned the secret of slow.
Learning the Secret of Slow
One friend boils water and brews a scalding mug of tea that can barely be sipped. She’s not thinking about the wonderful work she is doing with her kettle and her pungent brew. She’s not thinking of herself at all.
Cupped in my chilly fingers on a rainy day, her slow tea holds me seated in her living room rocking chair, and something lifts from my shoulders with the steam from my mug. We meander through a conversation, and “What are you reading?” may eventually find its steady way to, “Why are you discouraged?” and, “Why don’t we pray now?”
That is, if I can just sit long enough to let it happen.
Impatient and restless, I’ve had to learn, review, and then re-learn the secret super-power of slowing down, opening my eyes, and paying attention. Writer and practical theologian Annie Dillard wrote in words that land like a psalm:
“We are here to abet creation
And to witness it,
To notice each thing, so each thing gets noticed…
So that Creation need not play to an empty house.”
(Teaching a Stone to Talk, p. 74.)
When I am present to the people God brings into my life, I keep them from playing “to an empty house.” When I expect my husband, my children, and my friends to intuit love from the blur that is me, then the symphony that is them echoes off the walls, unheard.
When my four small sons grew tall and angular and independent, I slammed into the brick wall of a different kind of deadline. In the process of coming to a full stop to look into the wide green eyes of the son who was born the year I turned forty–who had never known me without the hurry and worry lines that run parallel between my eyebrows–I began to understand that time is a non-renewable resource, but it is also a gift.
And so the learning continues, by faith and in hope that I will continue to take grace to live slow and to remember that it’s a slow walk that takes us safely through this world:
“Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws,
we wait for you;
your name and renown
are the desire of our hearts.”