Slow is the Name of the Game



There are still boxes that are unpacked, albeit neatly hidden away either in a room at the back of the house or in areas not in daily use. This leaves me with a lingering sense that there is unfinished business that needs my attention. And yet, I either cannot get to the unpacking or I don’t have the energy to do so.

I am heeding a call to let go of the sense of urgency to get everything unpacked as of yesterday. There is a gentle invitation to slow down and allow my whole being to settle into this house we now call home, to be fully present in this space and invite my imagination to envision what the space could look like before racing ahead and making hasty decisions.

I guess it’s the get-it-done-sooner-rather-than-later aspect of my personality. I push myself hard, working to finish the job, because only then do I feel I have permission to sit back and relax. But this relentless driving to finish the job quickly often results in me making choices purely for functional reasons. I then sit with regret at the hastiness of my decisions, leaving me in the position of figuring out, and then learning to live with, the consequences of my choices. It also, more often than not, leaves me with an aching back and knees that take a while to heal.

“Now” and “quickly” is the name of the game for me; get the job done NOW, as QUICKLY as possible. But I find myself with an opportunity to do things differently, to reflect on the potential goodness of “slow.”

In my community, it is a well known fact that meat stews and curries always taste better the following day. Perhaps it is because the food is left to slowly soak up all the goodness of the blended spices. Often when preparing steak, recipes will call for the meat to be marinated for hours at a time, guaranteeing it to be tender and juicy. And then there are the Christmas fruit cakes. Every year a friend used to make these for Christmas gift markets, and she’d bake them at least two weeks before market began so the cakes could settle into their soft, dense deliciousness. These examples speak of the benefits of slow, where fast will get you average and slow will get you lip-smacking, finger-licking yummy goodness!

Examples from Israel’s story also speak of the goodness of slow. When the Hebrew people were led out of Egypt, their physical captivity and slavery might have ended, but the captivity and slave mentality were deeply ingrained in their psyche. In order for them to be the people of God, fulfilling the call of their ancestor Abraham to partner with God in bringing about healing and transformation in the world through their faith and how they lived, they needed deep transformation.

Forty years of wandering in the desert provided the time, and space, for this transformation to happen. In that time, God was slowly able to peel away the mentality of scarcity, and through the daily provision of water, manna and quail, implant the reality of the abundance in God’s kingdom.

Centuries later, Israel found herself in captivity again, this time brought about by their refusal to live as the people of God. Their city and their temple destroyed, they were carried into exile, away from their land, far from their God, no longer an independent nation. But in captivity, in another forty year period, God gave them new vision. Through his prophets, God spoke healing and restoration, not only for broken Israel, but also for a broken world. Poetry and oracles painted mental images of a new city, of the people gathered from all nations, of the people of God expanded to include those previously excluded. After forty years, they were allowed to return and rebuild Jerusalem, and once again become the people God called to bring healing and transformation to the world.

What these examples teach me, and what is evident in my life, is that slow is the name of the game for God. For goodness to endure, it must be built up over time. Healing and transformation, developing any kind of skill … these do not develop overnight. But slow and steady working, over time, produces quality that endures.

In 2012, Kelley Nikondeha wrote a blog post that marks the beginning of my understanding of this way of thinking. In her post, she reflected on the difference between “shine” and “patina.” She wrote:

“I never wanted the shine … Why work so hard for something so prone to fade and lose luster? Patina is what I was after. The slow exposure to the elements over time would shape me and forge a worthy contribution. I wanted a life weathered by experience and cultures and conversations. I craved a luster built layer by layer, an irrevocable polish.”

I’m learning to live the truth that fast is not always good and slow is sometimes better. I am learning that time allows change, learning and healing to sink into our DNA, so that what is produced endures. Maybe that’s why patience is a gift of the Holy Spirit, because slow processes require patience to wait for the desired outcome. I’m praying for patience, because slow is the name of the game for God.