Slow is in. A soothing balm to all who are stung by busyness, the Slow Movement is gaining ground. From slow food to slow travel, it challenges us to resist the constant pace of life that really should be reserved only for when we’re running for the bus. It’s about attentiveness, awareness and sustainability: of ourselves and of those who pay the price of our fast living.
So how about slow discipleship?
Slow is not new. Bookshops are selling us Buddhist mindfulness, but there is a tradition of contemplation and rest within Christianity and Judaism too. And it all began at the beginning, in Genesis 2:3 (ESV): “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation.”
Sabbath is not a suggestion. God thinks rest is so important for us that He put it into the Ten Commandments. Sabbath is our time each week to offer ourselves again to God. It is our time to laugh, to worship, to pray, to recommit ourselves to God and one another.
But slow discipleship is about more than taking one day off in seven. When we live fast for six days and slow down only on the seventh, we find ourselves too exhausted to receive from God and rest fully.
On every day of creation in Genesis 1, God saw that it was good. Even in immense productivity, God slowed down. He was attentive to His creation.
Slowing down is deeply counter cultural. We are constantly bombarded by notifications, messages, and adverts: all demanding an immediate reaction. The pace of change is quicker than the human race has ever experienced. There is immense pressure on us to succeed, to produce, to hurry.
Slow discipleship asks us to step back. To be attentive to our inner self and to how God might be at work within us. To observe those around us: the people we would usually walk past without a second glance. To be aware of how our choices, so often rash and hasty, affect others.
I’m learning to slow down, even if sometimes it feels like slamming the brakes on an express train. Simple things lead me to rest and prayer: sitting quietly for 10 minutes with a coffee, people-watching on public transport, watering my tomato plants, stroking the cat.
As we slow down, then Sabbath becomes not a day, but a way of life. It was a way of life for Jesus, who was able to be fully present and attentive to need. It’s a way of life for those of the monastic or contemplative tradition, who flee distraction to attend fully to God and others.
Slow discipleship is an ancient practice that needs new ambassadors in a culture exhausted by fast living. The world is desperate for the attentiveness and prayerfulness of slow-living disciples. It’s only in slow living that we will hear God’s whispers to us, and become fully aware of the needs around us.