Slow Down

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By Jeff Goins | Twitter: @JeffGoins

Life is Waiting_800My earliest memory is of a waiting room. I must be really young—no more than three or four years old—because I’m playing on the floor with a few books and toys. The scene is so vague that I wonder if maybe it was only a dream that I’m now appropriating as memory. My mom is at the dentist’s office, having some work done on her teeth, and I am with her. Fiddling around with whatever I can find, I pick up a book and stare at the words, too young to read; I flip through a Highlights magazine; I play with toys and bide my time. I wait.

Mom is gone maybe ten minutes, but it feels like two hours.

The memory is neither sweet nor sour; it just is. And maybe that’s the significance: this is my earliest memory, maybe God’s way of saying what the rest of life will look like.

We spend our lives waiting. We wait in line, wait to graduate, wait for our family to get a clue. We may even eagerly wait for “the one,” to fall in love and run away with the person we were made for.

While we are young, we long for freedoms that haven’t come: the ability to drive ourselves to work without mom or dad in the passenger’s seat, the chance to move away and see the world or sign that first apartment lease. We wait to be who we are, to receive permission to live our lives. And then, we wait for job promotions and test results and for our kids to phone home from college. We search and wander, looking for a place to land. And as we do this, we may miss an opportunity to live right now, to slow down.

We miss the moment.

Waiting is the great grace. It’s a subtle sign for those with eyes to see, reminding us there is work yet to be done–not just around us, but in us. We are still in progress, unfinished masterpieces full of incompletion. And although I know this, I resist it. For the fruit of waiting–the outcome, the resulting growth–I am grateful. But for the process–the part that causes the growth–I am not. Waiting is hard. It forces us to acknowledge our imperfections, our own unfinishedness. It is the long ride home; the journey, not the destination. This is why we hate to wait, why we feel taunted by these delays and slow-downs. They force us to rely on patience and faith to fill the gap between where we are and want to be.

I’m terrible at waiting. I blame TV for what it’s done to my brain, the Internet for how it’s made me impatient. But the truth is, I’m the one who chooses to be restless, the one who gives in to temptations to not hold out for the next thrill, while refusing the joy of what’s in front of me.

However, it seems I am not the only one who does this. Many of us are speeding up and skipping over, missing the important as we scan for the urgent. The irony is that in our anxiety toward not missing out, we are losing the most meaningful moments of life.

The other day, I went outside to sit on my back porch, leaving my phone in the house. As I rocked my son to sleep, I looked to my left and saw a huge cumulus cloud growing in the sky. Every second as I watched, it grew, marshmallowing into a great, big cotton ball in the sky. My first inclination was to run inside, grab my phone, and snap a photo. To capture the memory and share it with friends. But some internal urge prevented me from doing so. Resisting the compulsion to capture the moment, I instead chose a different route: to appreciate it. Sitting there and allowing the scene to take me, I knew there was something sacred in that moment, something special and important about being there. Call me arrogant, but that cloud came out of hiding just for me. It lasted only a minute and then passed, fading away forever into the oblivion of blue. And I nearly missed it.

A minute later, my wife called from the kitchen, asking me to come inside.

Everything important in life is like this–here one moment and gone the next. All we have are these moments, and what we choose to do with them is what we choose to do with our lives. We can miss or relish every one.

Something gets lost when we rush from one moment to the next, when we try to squeeze too much out of the times we’re supposed to wait. Something is sacrificed when we race through the valley to get to the mountaintop, when we hurry past those in need on our way to the next appointment.

We were made to wait, to long for things unseen. This is the place from which dreams and desires come. It’s a place of trust–and we find it not in the resolution, but the incompletion. If you’ve ever stood in line to get your driver’s license or waited outside the Apple store, you know what I’m talking about. We don’t love the process, but the results are worth the striving.

What we fail to notice as we stand in line–as we wait–is that we, ourselves, are changing. We’re growing and adapting to what’s around us, maybe even becoming someone new. At least, we can be. We have the opportunity. Whether we take it or not is up to us.

All this waiting is not an accident; it’s a call to slow down. These delays are meant to point us to a deep truth: we are not finished. If we relish this reality and embrace the opportunity it holds, we may be able to grasp a depth we’ve not yet reached. We may find this abundant life, after all. The good life comes like most good things–unexpectedly–in moments that are fading away faster than we realize. These are the moments that take our time but don’t demand our attention. When we miss them, they’re gone. In those times especially, we would do well to slow down and be present, because we won’t get them back.

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[Share your thoughts in the comments and we’ll enter your name into a draw for a copy of Jeff’s book. ** We get to draw TWO names! **]

** This was an adapted excerpt from The In-Between, a new book by Jeff Goins, which just released. Find out more at inbetweenbook.com. **
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About Jeff:

May 2013 option 1Jeff Goins was born in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. During a study abroad program in Spain, where his life was forever changed, he fell in love with travel. Jeff graduated from Illinois College with a B.A. in Spanish and Religion. He spent a year after college touring with a band, playing music all over North America and Taiwan. In 2006, he moved to Nashville, TN, where he now lives with his family.

You can connect with him online at goinswriter.com or find him on Twitter @JeffGoins.

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