Resisting the temptation to jump straight into my 2022 planning post, I am republishing a post that is really just good advice that I need to take this week: Slow Down. I am spending this week with family, disconnecting, and trying to not to jump straight out of Christmas and into the next thing. This post was originally published in June of 2021. I hope you enjoy!
In a recent episode of the And Sons Podcast, the hosts discuss taking adventure motorcycle lessons. I do not know much about any kind of motorcycling, adventure or otherwise, but they described a basic tenet explained by their course instructor.
Speed covers a lack of skill. Going faster can hide deficiencies in handling a bike.
Anyone who has ever been on a bicycle understands what happens when you slow down to a stop. At some point, you must put your feet down to stay upright. It is next to impossible to stay balanced on a bike that is not moving. Conversely, the more speed you pick up, the easier it is to stay upright.
The premise is straight forward when it comes to a motorcycle or a bicycle.
We often move from one thing to another without stopping. Busy is the first word we use to describe how things are going. Amidst all the busyness, how often do we intentionally slow down? To be present to those around us or to spend time with our thoughts?
I admit that writing that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I know it is important to slow down, but I fear the wobble. Though I try to carve out some time daily to ‘go slow’, it is the first thing to drop if something else comes up. Staying in motion is much easier.
Being occupied keeps us distracted from any discomfort waiting for us in the quiet. Picking up my phone and scrolling through a feed is easier than standing in my kitchen alone with a coffee and my thoughts. Taking time to reflect on life is a good thing in theory. Why is it so hard to do in practice?
The slow moments often ask the most of me. Stopping a ‘productive’ task is hard when it means I must be present in a difficult conversation with my wife. Sacrificing progress on a job around the house to be unproductive with my kids is challenging. For these reasons, and many others, it is easier to choose constant motion rather than slow to a stop and engage with my mind and heart.
Too often the metrics I use to measure my life are based on the things I am good at or provide gratification. If the grass needs cutting, I become single minded about getting it done, often putting everything (and everyone) else below the task at hand.
I can get lost in a spreadsheet, analyzing a family budget or tracking information, taking me out of the presence of the people in the same room.
My phone can be the biggest distraction of all. It is too easy to start scrolling through stories and lose everything happening around me.
When productivity or my own preferences become the drivers of my behaviour, my impact as a husband and father is diminished. My family gets less of me. When I am distracted, relationships cannot fully form. Bonds are weakened and time is lost. It is easy to see how staying in motion, whether physical or mental, and avoiding the present moment could lead to regret in the long run.
Slowing down for me means acknowledging the areas of myself where I need more work. Consenting to growth requires an admission of the places where I wobble when I slow down. When I start to feel off balance or unsure of myself in a particular relationship, there are two choices. The first is to speed up – to switch back on to something else that will engage my attention and keep me moving in a direction. It may not be the one that is best for me, but it will help me avoid any discomfort.
The second option is to risk falling in order to grow. Yes, I may fall. I may even hurt myself, but if I am committed, over time growth can occur. As I write this, it feels abstract, so I will share a real life example.
I sometimes encounter moments with my young children where I don’t really know what I am doing. Particularly with my oldest son. Like most 8-year-olds he can get tunnel vision about what he wants to do and can get upset when his wants do not align perfectly with what I see as the needs for our family in a given moment. The other night, he got really upset at me.
We were in the midst of getting the younger kids ready for bed and I was not available to play with him outside. While my explanation of the situation seemed perfectly reasonable and rational to me, it did not land well with him. I got frustrated with his behaviour. He got sent to his room.
There was a lot of stuff left to do to clean up and wrap up the weekend around the house and the easy thing to do would have been to let him go to bed and just focus on getting tasks done. By morning things would have blown over.
But in his frustration with the situation, I sensed there might be more than fatigue at play. Once things had settled a bit, I decided to venture in to see where his heart was. I am glad I did. Had I left the situation where it was, I would have missed the moment. Instead, I received an opportunity to come alongside him as a father and navigate through his frustrations with him. Slowing down to engage with his heart is something I want to be able to do, whether he is 8 or 28. My kids deserve a father who is not afraid to venture into the uncomfortable places, but I need practice.
I would be lying if I said this was my regular approach, but the fruits of taking a risk and slowing down to engage in the uncomfortable places are real and they give me confidence to go again.
As I have written before, I experience the closeness of God in the quiet places. In the Father’s economy, my productivity counts for little. He offers us rest and peace, yet in the craziness of the day, it is easy to be drawn to the urgent. To feel rushed and distracted by everything.
But it is in the willingness to pause in the chaos that I have begun to experience more.
Sometimes the more is simple, like the smile from my daughter who noticed that I was watching her play with her brother. Sometimes it is just a willingness to sacrifice 5 minutes at the office to hear about what’s going on at school or to enjoy the rest of my coffee with my wife.
I am becoming convinced that each day is full of these moments. They are there for us and are available if we are willing to move at the speed of slow.
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