At almost nine months pregnant, a lot of things look different in my life. I was processing this with my counselor, and I shared that one of the most interesting things is how slow I have to walk. I cannot keep the pace that everyone else is going at, which feels like an accurate picture of life in general. It is fascinating to experience how challenging it is for people to slow down to my pace, or the many times they don’t even realize they’ve left me behind. Often when people do let me set the speed, observers will comment on how slowly we are walking. “Why do you guys walk so slow?” I respond, “Me. I’m the reason,” and watch their faces turn red immediately.
But this struck me as a metaphor for the reality we are living in – why do we feel like we have to move so quickly? One of my favorite things about walks with my husband is that it is never rushed. We are never power walking, we are enjoying time together at a leisurely pace. But culturally we view life as some kind of race, always moving at lightning speed from thing to thing, juggling way more than we are actually capable of carrying.
I am simultaneously frustrated and grateful for the daily experience of my limitations. The reality is that I just cannot walk as fast as everyone else. So they can leave me behind, and that’s fine, but I am certainly not going to try and keep up. And I’m wondering if this is a perspective that I can take into a new season of life, where my attention will shift and my priorities have to change. What if I allow myself to move at the pace that is appropriate for my body and my soul? What if I didn’t feel bad about it?
In our hurry, our speed-walking through life, we actually do have unintended consequences. We brush past people, forget things, come up with quick fixes rather than long term solutions. We are not aware of what God is doing around us and most likely miss the invitations He is offering. When we move slowly, we notice more, we pay attention, we listen better. When we aren’t consumed by what is next, we can allow space for a conversation to go deeper, sit a little longer in Jesus’ presence, or see something that we’ve been missing all along.
In preparation for a workshop I was presenting recently, I returned to Present Over Perfect by Shauna Neiquist, and decided it was worth rereading in its entirety. In some way, this is the whole premise of the book. She found herself moving at breakneck speed and experiencing no reward and only burnout and frustration. One of my favorite quotes from her is this: “You don’t have to damage your body and your soul and the people you love most in order to get done what you think you have to get done.” I work with college students who absolutely refuse to believe that this is true for them. And their health, in every category, pays the price.
I often reflect on my twenty-something self, remembering how determined and purposeful she was. Some days I miss her. Some days I can gently recognize it as a sweet season that is over, because I don’t aspire to the big dreams and stages anymore, instead I am fully content in my small life, influencing and changing just the world right in front of me. Small is beautiful and just what I am called to right now. To consistently examine my sphere of influence and to be responsible to it, not more, is what it looks like to honor God with my life right now.
Almost everytime I meet someone new right now, they ask all the predictable questions, and then respond with, “My son/daughter is already *insert age here*! It goes by so fast!” I have no expectation other than that this new season will be totally overwhelming, but I also hope that I can maintain some semblance of this mindset: walk as slowly as you need.
I’m curious what would happen if we always invited people to adjust to a slower pace, being unwilling to match the hurry and the rush that so often characterizes our culture. Guess what? You don’t have to be carrying an extra 25 pounds to have a legitimate excuse to slow down. We all make the choice of how fast we walk, or how fast we live our lives. Busy is a facade we choose to try and project contentment, and I’m calling bull on the whole thing.
Here’s your invitation, or your permission slip, or whatever you need today: walk a little slower. Cancel the thing you wish you had said no to initially. Reset the pace of your life in whatever way you need. You can walk slow with me.