Is Slowing Down Possible?

August 16, 2013 — 20 Comments

snailEons ago, when I was attending college, I suffered from that common plague—a chronic lack of time.

Between my studies, my job and romancing my future wife, I never had enough hours in the day.

So I did what everyone in that situation does . . . I worked harder. It didn’t solve my dilemma and probably worsened my exhaustion.

During that indescribably busy season of my life God spoke to me through a song. It was recorded by an early “contemporary” Christian group called “Love Song.” At the end of this column you can listen to a recording of the song “Slow Down,” by Chuck Girard. (Don’t skip to it now though, since the link won’t work unless you read the entire post.)

It sounds a bit dated now, forty years after it was composed, but it still conveys a powerful calming message. I hadn’t heard it for years until I just uncovered it for this column, but listening to it today has stilled my sense of urgency as I rush to complete this post before our four grandkids arrive for a weekend visit, in just an hour.

The importance of slowing down and resting is never far from my consciousness, since I am always overextended. Like many of you, I find it extremely difficult to say “no,” so I end up committed to more things than I feel I’m able to do well.

This week I received word of another song, which is what actually inspired me to write on this subject. It’s by a delightful young artist and is much peppier than Girard’s more prayerful message. I believe you’ll enjoy watching the music video below (after you finish reading, of course).

In light of this human need for being reminded to rest, I wondered where C.S. Lewis lamented his own overburdened state. His courtesy in responding to all correspondence is legendary. In addition to teaching, writing, corresponding and (near the end of his life) husbanding, Lewis was far busier than I am.

So, I explored some of Lewis’ words. (That’s never “work,” by the way, since it never fails to reinvigorate me, just like physical rest.) I found the following passage delivers a brilliant insight into why many of us are so compelled to work—work—work.

In the following passage, from a 1930 letter, Lewis relates how our drive to succeed can be linked to our personal ambitions. He couches the discussion in the context of his own desire for renown as a writer. And, Lewis declares, it is only when those misdirected impulses are quelled that we can truly find rest and peace.

From the age of sixteen onwards I had one single ambition [to succeed as a writer], from which I never wavered, in the prosecution of which I spent every ounce I could, on which I really & deliberately staked my whole contentment: and I recognise myself as having unmistakably failed in it. . . .

The side of me which longs, not to write, for no one can stop us doing that, but to be approved as a writer, is not the side of us that is really worth much. And depend upon it, unless God has abandoned us, he will find means to cauterise that side somehow or other. If we can take the pain well and truly now, and by it forever get over the wish to be distinguished beyond our fellows, well: if not we shall get it again in some other form.

And honestly, the being cured, with all the pain, has pleasure too: one creeps home, tired and bruised, into a state of mind that is really restful, when all one’s ambitions have been given up. Then one can really
for the first time say “Thy Kingdom come:” for in that Kingdom there will be no pre-eminences and a man must have reached the stage of not caring two straws about his own status before he can enter it.

Think how difficult that would be if one succeeded as a writer: how bitter this necessary purgation at the age of sixty, when literary success had made your whole life and you had then got to begin to go through the stage of seeing it all as dust and ashes. Perhaps God has been specially kind to us in forcing us to get over it at the beginning.

At all events, whether we like it or not, we have got to take the shock. As you know so well, we have got to die. Cry, kick, swear, we may: only like Lilith to come in the end and die far more painfully and later. . . . I would have given almost anything—I shudder to think what I would have given if I had been allowed—to be a successful writer. . . . I am writing as I do simply & solely because I think the only thing for you to do is absolutely to kill the part of you that wants success.

Powerful words to ponder. Now, without further delay, the aforementioned songs. Profound lyrics in both. Listen to them in either order, keeping in mind that Myla Smith’s is energetic and Chuck Girard’s is meditative. Enjoy . . . and slow down!

“Slow Down” by Myla Smith

“Slow Down” by Chuck Girard

20 responses to Is Slowing Down Possible?

  1. 

    He who seeks his life on earth shall loose it, but he who seeks his life in heaven shall find it. Jesus Christ

    It is not strange that it requires of a man a full page of barely comprehendable words to explain what our Savior plainly said in two short phrases.

    • 

      Yes, Jesus was concise… especially as we have his words recorded in the Gospels. Of course, Jesus did (and said) many things not recorded in the scriptures (John 21:25).

      I assume, perhaps mistakenly, that the second sentence may be a less than complimentary reference to the present column. If so, I apologize for the barely comprehensible presentation. I’m not offended though, since I learned long ago that God created us with almost infinite diversity, and just as one person savors a particular flavor, another prefers something more tart. Likewise, we learn in different ways and often prefer different diversions. I hope you enjoyed some part of the column and will visit again.

      • 

        The direct point of my first comment was the quotation from C. S. Lewis’ letter.
        The apparent point of the overall post was worth while and surely addresses a condition most, if not all, of us struggle with. My goal in commenting was to, with irony, affirm and simplify what I saw as its basic message.

      • 

        Glad to hear that Dennis. Thanks for clarifying.

        The underlying principle that reinforces your concept is that truth is simple. Untruths are almost by definition complex. It’s easy to say and show that you truly love someone. But when you need to add all sorts of qualifications, it muddies the water. As an example, a proposal to share life “for better or worse” is crystal clear. An invitation to consider moving in together, sharing the rent 60/40, dividing the closets, making a chart to divide household duties and clarifying the process for terminating the arrangement requires a bit more explanation.

  2. 

    Great words from one of my favorite writers!

  3. 

    I am not going to listen to the songs because I don’t have time! Seriously, I don’t. I have 7 articles to write by Tuesday, but I am glad I made time to read it! Mostly, I like to know no one else has time either because I am a big believer in misery loves company!

    Enjoy the grandkids :)

    • 

      That surely is a truism that misery loves company. As for listening to the songs… I actually find I’m more productive in my writing with background music. Of course, consciously “listening” to the lyrics as one would do in this case is something different, so I understand why you’re too busy now.

      That said, I’m extremely flattered that you not only paused in your hectic schedule to read the post, but that you even took the time to comment! Thank you.

  4. 

    The first one is really perky – sort of fits. Both are lovely.
    At some point it’s necessary to realize you need to be gentle with yourself – and that doesn’t stop productivity (but increases quality of life).
    I do worry about the kids and those under 30 – their lives have always been noisy and rushed and competitive…always with constant bombardment of information, movement, scheduled activities, and demands for attention.
    How sad if a person can’t sit quietly under a tree and do nothing but daydream and look at the sky and stars…to know stillness and quiet. To be unhurried with their own thoughts. Perhaps what is bothering society.
    Perfect post….sorry I have to rush off now

    • 

      :) With the publishing pace you keep over there at Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge I’m not surprised you need to rush off!

      Yes, I think you are absolutely correct that it’s becoming more and more challenging as people remain connected to the technology umbilical cord throughout their lives. Just look at how they suffer clinical anxiety (even panic attacks) when their phones are taken away from them for even a few moments.

  5. 

    Enjoyed the post as usual (it’s why we *make* time for Mere Inkling). I think being busy is endemic in our society; it’s considered the ultimate virtue.
    I LOVE having God for my boss. He’s the one who *commands* a day of rest each week, gives us night time, and says, “be still and know I am God”. So, if He’s asking me to do something, which is all my life consists of nowadays, He will help me keep things in proper priority. Of course, the balance of focus is constantly shifting, which takes much prayer and refocus, but is so freeing.
    It was nice to hear Lewis recognize the need to die to writer’s ambition. Obviously, God’s solution to his problem wasn’t to leave him obscure forever, but the personal longing needs to be redirected. My own ambition has always been very small; I’ll have to see if God thinks it needs crucifying as well. Mostly I try to just focus on the results: lives changed and God glorified.

    • 

      Thank you, Cheri. Yes, God’s creation of the Sabbath–for humanity, not for himself–provides priceless insight into our nature. We require rest. And we find our true (fulfilling, restoring, healing, resurrecting) rest in God himself.

      On the writing ambition, it’s interesting to see how God uses our work in ways we never anticipated. I imagine that if there were a balancing scale, we might see a multi-million copy bestseller fare quite poorly against a one-page letter of comfort written by a semi-literate unknown, that became the channel for God’s liberating good news to the sole person who ever read its words.

      • 

        That’s what heaven is for. But, I do know God wants lots of people reached, so if we have the capacity and opportunity to aim for bestseller status, I don’t think God finds that automatically selfish. Jesus said quite a lot about learning worldly business techniques and “shouting from housetops”.
        Fame isn’t bad. Needing and focusing on fame is. Reminds me of Jesus and money, too… :-)

  6. 

    I like that Chuck Girard’s song says “Slow down and know that He is God.” It shows exactly how we need to apply “Be still and know that I am God” to our lives! I’m sorry to confess, I just HAD to jump ahead and listen to the songs first (just to see if you’d managed to find a way to make the links un-usable until the reader scrolled down. :D But I did come back and finish listening to them. I, too, have a long list of things I should be doing, but I decided to take time to enjoy reading the posts of a few of my favorite bloggers. :)

    I took time and started the slow process today of producing a new kind of “slow food”–I milked my cow for the very first time! First for me and first for her! I got a whopping two tablespoons of milk. LOL, really! It’s a slow process, but one that I thought of as I read your post. It took a lot of time out of my day to get this done, but it was SO worth it! I’m reveling in the process that God made possible and the chance to experience it myself.

    • 

      I’m glad you enjoy Mere Inkling. I imagine that farm experience was quite enjoyable. Most people never get to even be around livestock. I had an uncle who was a farmer, and a cousin to two of my father also farmed. We seldom visited though, and it seemed very exotic. No farmers left in the family now, which I suppose is the way of things in America.

  7. 

    I recently heard a sermon about rest. (I suck at “rest” in the biblical sense) I’ve got a list full of excuses and its starting to show that I’m lacking in it. Anyway, the pastor mentioned how as humans our very first full day of life was a rest day. God created Adam and Eve on the 6th day and then God rested on the 7th. Could you imagine? And then the Pastor said this, “Most of us live our lives working to get a break. We should be working FROM rest. Not FOR rest.” Powerful stuff.

    • 

      That is a powerful message, Holly. Having sleep apnea makes it all the more meaningful.

      The sequencing is very thought-provoking. Most European calendars begin with Monday, since the normal (non-sabbatarian) Christian “cycle” ends with Sunday as our “day of rest.” Yet it truly is the first day of the week. Like most great truths, its applications can be viewed from a number of valid and beneficial angles.

  8. 

    Somewhat related to this, I have discovered a form of time manipulation almost akin to time-travel! ;)

    I never have felt like there were enough hours in the day or enough time in my life, and the feeling has only worsened as I have grown. But by accident, a year or two ago, I accidentally discovered that, if I take time in the morning to slow down, pray and read the Bible or something else (right now I am reading C. S. Lewis’s “Miracles”), each hour of the day lasts longer. At least, that is for all the world what it feels like. It’s as if God is saying “Make time for Me and I will make time for you.”

    • 

      What a glorious discovery. That is how my wife experiences life as well. I believe Martin Luther and many other saints have found beginning their day in “hours” of prayerful reading and meditation multiplies their time.

      • 

        God knows I’m a slow learner. :P It took me around 30 years to discover this for myself despite many people around me saying how it shaped their days. If I didn’t laugh at how patient God is with me, I’d have to cry. Some days, I do both.

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