The last day of the 10-day Silent retreat I attended our leaders gave us some sage advice. They told us that we cannot perceive it but our bodies, minds and souls have slowed down since we have been on the retreat. They told us our senses are off a bit and they advised us to be careful and not move too fast, or expect to re-enter the world at the same pace we left. A result of our silence was that we had slowed down, but the world had not. It helped explain my inability to remember where I put things. I began to notice this in myself as I had such a hard time packing, even though I had brought very little with me. I couldn’t remember where I had placed things I had not needed during the retreat. After our last session, we broke our silence dinner and then enjoyed an ice cream party. After so much talking so much, I found it hard to get to sleep.
I had a long, slow trip home and arrived in time for a two-day weekend before I went back to work. All of this helped me adjust to the reality of life outside of a retreat. At home, I returned to my fast-paced life. I packed as much as I can into a week. After my retreat, my schedule included: a mission trip, an action filled vacation, work to keep up with in between, as well as, packing up my house for a move in between a visit from my daughter. It was definitely the opposite of slowing.
But in the middle of last week I underwent a minor surgery on my foot that required me to stay in bed for three days. I’m allowed to be up and about again, but I must wear a boot and take it easy for the next six weeks. This reality has brought me back to the spiritual discipline of slowing. Just changing my pace draws my attention back to God. I can get moving so fast, with the speed of traffic, and lose my spiritual senses that are the gift of slowing. To practice the spiritual discipline of slowing it is suggested that we choose the longest line at the grocery, drive the speed limit and not five miles over, learn to take our time eating and drinking and completing our tasks.
Though 1 Peter 3:9 says:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
God’s slowness is a virtue that He invites me to follow. I am reminded of John Ortberg recounting the spiritual direction he undervalued when it was first given. His mentor listened to his busy life of service to God and responded by telling him to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from his life. Ortberg accepted it and wrote it down but his soul felt in need of more meaningful spiritual guidance and he asked what else he needed to do. To which his mentor replied, “There is nothing else.” He said,“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
I’m grateful for the spiritual gift of my minor surgery. I hope that six weeks is long enough to learn a habit of slowing!