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The Slow Advantage

“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” Lily Tomlin

I learned something about myself in college on a running trail. My college campus was located near a lake. More and more I found myself drawn to it. I started to grab a book and study by the lake. Soon I could not help but notice that many people ran by the lake. One day I began to wonder, what if I started to run by the lake? I gave it a try and loved it.

I was not very good at it. It took quite a while to build up some distance and endurance. More and more I was drawn to it as a chance to get outside, be by the lake, and have an outlet to balance the other parts of my life.

I was surprised when another college student came up to me after class one day and asked if I would like to go running with him. Not long after we set out on the trail together. I immediately felt awkward as I tried to keep up with his pace and talk at the same time. I learned something about myself that day - I need to be slow. I was at my best as a runner when I went at a slower pace. It helped me focus and finish well.  I have realized I need to slow down in other ways to be my best self. As Anne Lamott said, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Cal Newport just came out with a new book, Slow Productivity: The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout. He believes there is a way to work that is smarter - it’s slow. He suggests we think about productivity in a new way. Rather than striving to do more, we should focus on doing sustainable work meaningfully. He says the secret to slow productivity is to “do fewer things, work at a natural place, and obsess over quality.”   

There is a story told by the gospel writer Mark.* I have always loved this story. It shows a day in the life of Jesus. He goes to the synagogue to teach, heals a demon-possessed man, and then heals his friend’s mother-in-law. By evening, the whole town has gathered around him wanting to be healed. Now that is overwhelming!

Then early the next morning after probably a very short sleep, while it was still dark, Jesus went off to a solitary place and prayed. Soon his friend, Peter, and the others came looking for him saying, “Come on. Everyone is looking for you.”

But he does not latch onto their urgency or rush to follow them. Jesus says, "Let’s go to the nearby villages so I can preach there also, That’s why I have come.”

Notice what Jesus does. He slows down. He goes off to a quiet place. He gathers himself. He prays. He remembers who he is and what he is there to do. After being surrounded by the pain and suffering of an entire town, he slows things down.  He sets off to the neighboring village. Remember Jesus travels by foot. It’s going to take some time to get there. He remains true to what he needs to do.

When you are faced with challenges at work or home, when you are in a time of pain or suffering, or if life is just plain overwhelming, it may help to remember: now is the time to be slow. Find a quiet place. Gather yourself. Remember who you are. Remember what you are called to do right now. Go through your day at a pace that allows you to enjoy the journey, in so much as that is possible for you. Allow yourself to have some reserves, so you’ll be able to keep going and finish well.


*Mark 1:21-38


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