“The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.”
Arm over arm I make my way to the other side of the pool. Mentally I count the strokes. As I touch the pool wall, I pull my head out of the water and meet his eyes, anxiously hoping to hear the words, “Perfect! That’s exactly what I had in mind!” Instead, his head nods from side to side as a slight smile meets his lips with the words, “You have to slow down!” My swim coach begins to explain, “fast, frantic strokes do not make a fast swimmer.” This would prove to be a very complicated skill to implement in my swimming, but one that could take me from a decent swimmer to a good swimmer. My goal would be to decrease my strokes from 25 per length to 22, then 20, then 18 and so on. Fewer strokes per pool length mean a less frantic swimmer and much more power per stroke.
In a world which values speed and instant gratification above all, the notion of slowing things down seems counterintuitive. We fill our days with to-do lists that keep our minds so full we are unable to see the hurting lives and beautiful stories all around us. In trying to live a full, abundant life, we end up frantically flailing our arms. However; a busy life does not equal a meaningful life. Sometimes we need to slow down to fully engage in life the way Christ intended. Christ has given us this great gift of life and never planned for us to be frantically running so much that we are unable to see the lives of our neighbors. So often we are told that we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and be our own hero. But what if our bootstraps are broken and we need someone to come alongside us to help us carry our boots; or perhaps even help us pick out a new pair of shoes? Life was never intended to be lived alone.
A busy life does not equal a meaningful life
Sunday morning as the final hymn is sung the frantic feeling returns with a myriad of thoughts on all that needs to be accomplished this day. There are clothes to wash, meals to make, homework to assist with. I lift my head, and there is my swim coach, sitting two rows in front of me. His words return, “You have to slow down!” I glance at the people around me. I know many of their stories and the hurt they have experienced. Some know the pain of divorce, some have been stung by the bitterness of death, others have been betrayed, and some are caring for their aging parents. There is no perfect life, and yet I watch as the people reach out to one another. A handshake or a hug brings a moment of peace.
My heart receives a gift as the words sink in: you have to slow down. My mind gets stuck on the words, “slow down.” Then the synapses in my brain connect as a joyful thought fills my head: I don’t have to slow down, I get to slow down. Why? Because of Jesus. I have been found! This quest to justify my existence can end because I have been justified by God who gave up heaven to be with me! This frantic longing for a feeling of inner peace can be replaced by the reign of the prince of Peace. Christ's work for me soothes the dark tears and cries welling up from a soul that feels the weight of sin, shortcomings, and brokenness. The Christian lives under grace; the grace that permeates a life like water saturates dry and cracked soil. Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation cuts to the marrow, “The law says, do this, and it is never done. Grace says, believe in this, and everything is already done.”
This quest to justify my existence can end because I have been justified by God who gave up heaven to be with me!
My to-do list will always be there. I can fill my life with activities that keep me frantically moving along at a very slow pace, but life is not a problem to be solved, and it is okay to let the brokenness of the body of Christ interrupt my day. It is okay to spend time in fellowship with other believers so that together we can remind one another that we are never alone in this life nor in the one that awaits us. We each walk a road that can only be understood from the lens of our own eye, but our road connects us like a map to each and every person we interact with. One of the greatest gifts we can give one another is an hour of our time. Grab a cup of coffee, have a conversation on the phone, go out for drinks or invite someone to your home for dinner. We can use that hour, a time of care and concern, to point each other back to our Savior, a Savior who willingly gave his time to us because He loves us unconditionally.