For the last couple of years, the words “breakneck speed” have been running through my mind. Why do we, as Americans, try to do too many things? Why is “more” touted as better?
One day a couple of years ago, I was walking my dog while listening to an audiobook when I realized I wasn’t even comprehending what the author was saying. Pocketing my headphones, I thought I’d just open myself to God in prayer. As I entered a green space in our neighborhood, my dog pulled me toward a tree and for the first time, the intricacies of the tree bark caught my attention. Then being pulled over to the next tree, I noticed that its bark was very different. I blurted out, “God, I never noticed the uniqueness of each tree bark. How did I miss this?” In a moment’s time, I heard the words, “breakneck speed. You are living life at breakneck speed.” Stunned, I began contemplating these words as the two of us began made our way home.
For the days and months that followed, I began focusing on all my hustling and bustling. Learning to slow down is hard. Putting less in each day is a challenge.
Discerning what is important and what can wait is difficult for many of us.
Now, I admit that there is a bit of humor in being taken aback by tree bark, but there is also a powerful message. How much of life are we missing by rushing from one thing to the next? It’s no wonder that anxiety and depression are so prevalent in our society!
The words from the psalmist (46:10) “Be still and know that I am God” have been on the hearts and minds of my congregation for the last year. We have taken some sabbatical time. We’ve stepped back. We’ve quieted our minds, settled our hands and feet, and tried to listen more closely to God. I’ve seen a divine peace of sorts enter our ministry. We are still busy doing God’s work, and yet it doesn’t feel as frantic.
What would it mean for you to slow down even just a bit? What might you be missing as you move through your life? Did you notice the beautiful moon Tuesday night? Were you even looking?
There is a prayer practice that I have used over the years that takes the words “Be still and know that I am God” from Psalm 46. You begin the prayer by closing your eyes and saying the above eight words slowly and quietly, over and over. When the time seems right, you begin dropping some of the words as you continue to pray. “Be still and know that I am” …. “Be still and know “….. “Be still”….. “Be”……… Then sit quietly and “Be” with God.
I suggest that you set your phone alarm to a specific hour each day that calls you to slow down and just be with your “Greater Power.” When you hear it, find that quiet place and offer this prayer or another that calls you. Five minutes every day will transform you physically, emotionally and spiritually.
My prayers have changed a bit over the year. I’ve moved from “being” to prayers of thanksgiving. The key is to not fill your prayer with lots of words. Keep it simple. Lately, when my alarm has gone off at 1 in the afternoon, I have said, “Thank you God for creating me in your love. Use me to be an instrument of that love.”
At this time of Thanksgiving, we are reminded that we have much to be grateful for. Make your gratitude list. Then each day when your alarm goes off, lift one of those things up as you take a moment to “Be” with God. Love, grace and peace to all.
Rev. Deb Patterson is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Delaware.