One of my new year’s resolutions in 2019 was to slow down.
In a world of fast-paced environments where efficiency and instant results are extolled, slowing down can seem counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. If you have too much to do, doesn’t it make more sense to just do it faster? If you want to succeed in the workplace, it sometimes feels like you need to learn to send five emails before you’ve even eaten breakfast. My least favourite word of our generation is ‘hustle’ – don’t just do your work, do your work super efficiently so you have time to do some more work! This can become the case with university too – deadlines pile up, 24-hour libraries loom over campus, and there’s a buzz of tension and sleep-deprivation around this time of year which doesn’t seem to be diminished no matter how many wellbeing activities or chill-out zones are on offer.
This need to do more and do it better and faster can also creep into our activism. In Sarah Corbett’s book ‘How to be a Craftivist’, she talks about burn-out and the pressure we as people of conscience can put on ourselves not to rest until the world is a better place. She sums up the ill-effects of this mindset perfectly:
A fast-paced life stops us functioning to the best of our abilities: concentration starts to wander, information struggles to sink in, and, ironically, things then take longer than they should… This fast-paced living is taking its toll on our health, community and society. (How to be a Craftivist, Sarah Corbett, p.39)
In this kind of environment, slowing down becomes subversive. Sabbath has always been a radical gift we Christians forget to cherish – the idea of the people of Israel rejecting the constant work imposed on them in Egypt, and taking time just to be with their God would have been shocking. In the same way, taking an afternoon off during exam season seems at best foolish and at worst arrogant in our pressurised university cultures. But we are called to do things differently, to follow Jesus into the wilderness of Lent, to walk humbly with our God – and this can’t be done in a hurry.
This radical way of being doesn’t have to be all that drastic, however. I’ve been trying to sit down at a table and have breakfast each day. Compared to grabbing crisps on the way out the door as I did before, getting up 10 minutes earlier and sitting down with a plate every morning is quite a novelty! And it sets me up with 10 minutes of calm for the day – no phone, no tv, no conversation, just tea and toast and taking my time.
These small acts of changing pace can make a world of difference. During Stress Awareness Month, what small routine can you introduce or change to give yourself some breathing space? And during Lent, how can we reject a mindset of busy-ness and make space for a slower walk with God?
Written by Emma Temple, North East Regional Developement Worker.