Roman, the unhurried one, last Saturday.
“Grandma Susy, you need to slow down.”
Huh? I was in the kitchen, chatting with Roman as he drew and spelled words on paper at the kitchen table. He sounded each word aloud, slowly writing the letters as he decoded them from the sounds he was making. Roman’s spelling was charming, revealing how he heard commonly spoken words, where “have a cat” became “ava cat.” And he was decidedly unhurried and unpressured in what he was doing.
But me? I had decided to put away some dishes and tidy the kitchen while I chatted with Roman, and as I bustled about, Roman stopped, looked at me, and matter-of-factly spoke those words: “Grandma Susy, you need to slow down.”
It took me aback. I didn’t seem to me that I was moving all that quickly, but when I contrasted my demeanor with Roman’s, I realized that I was. And for what? I thought about my recent life, and I realized that I had begun to think always ahead, always forward, always to what needed to be done and how far behind I was beginning to feel. Lately, I’ve felt a great deal of pressure regarding all that I need, or want, to balance in my life—spiritual life, school, family, home, church, maintaining physical health, etc.
But instead of settling in and focusing on each thing, keeping its importance in perspective, I had moved into a very mild and uncharacteristic form of driven-ness. Not driven-ness in the sense of pressing toward some lofty goal but driven-ness in the sense of simply trying to survive it all, to press to get it all done. Driven-ness to survive? Haha. That seems such a lowly aim (so weak, so inept), but for me—for one who thrives on slowness, or for one whose kryptonite is time-pressure—it really became about this.
So, lately, I have found myself becoming rather tightly wound. Where I have always been able to manage stress well—given enough time to keep broad margins, given that there was always something I could cut from my schedule and had no qualms about doing so, and mostly by much prayer and focus on scripture—I suddenly found myself in a position where there is more to do than I can manage comfortably.
It doesn’t help that when I am a bit swamped, I find myself dawdling away time. Wasting time. Maybe this is an unconscious attempt to avoid that awful feeling of too-much-pressure, but ignoring the too-much-to-do list only increases pressure. Who knows why I do what I do?! It's simply true that the recent equation of my life has not added up to peace and calm! :-)
I must say that I have a very low tolerance for busyness and time-pressure. So, while it might seem to someone else that I am really dealing with very little, to me this is challenging, and, for the first time that I can remember, I have found myself in a state of chronic low-level stress (with some surges of high-stress thrown in). All of the self-talk that I’ve always been so good at (telling myself what the Bible says and what really matters), along with prayer, has not availed much. And why? Does prayer fail? Does God not hear? Of course He does! But maybe I simply need to reorient my life, my aims, and my thinking to align with His thoughts and aims for me.
Slow down? When I don’t seem to have enough time to take care of the business of living a balanced, healthy life? Yes, slow down.
So, what to do? How shall I “slow down” as Roman so naturally, easily, and cheerfully exhorted me last Saturday?
That’s what I’m working on now. Letting go of perfect. (Do I really need to maintain my A+ GPA? Perfectionism is not excellence, it is pride. It is self-absorption, which is the opposite of love.) And learning not to dawdle away time, while at the same time not pressing forward, but moving forward, unhurried, with calm discipline. And learning to settle in to get God’s mind for my life. He does not mean for me to be rushed, to feel tightly wound or stressed, or to be distracted.
God says to the wind and the waves, “Peace, be still.” Jesus didn’t hurry.
For years, in my high desert home, I kept a quote on my fridge by Evelyn Underhill, and I lived by it: “On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgement and effort to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur.”
Lately, I’ve been the amateur. But Roman? No, children don’t hurry. They deal calmly with only the task at hand. Children have not learned to take on the cares of the world. They trust that their parents have their back and that they can carry on with their business. They just do it, and they do it with joy. Joy.
The Bible says to be like a child.
I have so much to learn, and the Lord has given me this opportunity to learn it.
Lord, You do have my back! Help me to let go of the self-absorption of worldly perfectionism and aims. Help me to carry on simply, calmly, steadily, consistently, and joyfully. Help me to learn about peace and stillness in the midst of the wind and the waves. Renew my mind so that I will recognize those waves as small things, and direct my steps so that they are aligned with Yours.
Thank You for speaking to me through my grandson, and make me, again, like a child.