Some things are slow

Some things are slow.  Some things are simply better slow.

Last spring I started day hiking the Appalachian Trail near my home in south central Pennsylvania.  I meet plenty of fast, jack-rabbit thru-hikers (Georgia to Maine in one trip) and enjoy my conversations with each of them.  They are serious, determined and focused.  I admire them, but I don’t emulate them.  If I am ever to finish the AT,  as I secretly hope, it may not be until I am in my 70’s.

Meanwhile, I walk slowly, but I notice the  advantages of a relaxed pace.  Last Friday I came to this AT marker.

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All that stretched beyond it was a field of boulders through  which I picked my way slowly.  Unlike thru-hikers,  I don’t have to make time or the next shelter.  I noticed, for example, a few red-eyed vireos with their distinctive, sing-song  voices, darting around second growth trees, hovering over clusters of leaves (for insects, the bird book says), enjoying each other, enjoying their wings.  It was quite entertaining and a gift I would have missed if I were trying to make time.

It’s not surprising that I went to seminary the slow way.  Four years for an M.A.  Three more years for an M.Div.  It took me a long while to know what God was calling me to.  But I always appreciated the fact that I only had two courses at a time to chew on while my full-time colleagues were just hurriedly trying to get things done.  I raised children, taught  piano lessons, was a church musician and had time in my travels to and fro to slowly absorb only two courses at a time.  The relaxed pace was a gift.   I had more time to relate what I was learning to my daily life. And I had more time to figure out that I was really a Lutheran Christian at heart.  (No, I didn’t start seminary as a Lutheran…far from it.)

Then there is reading the Bible which, I realize, the majority of Christians have only been able to do in the last few hundred years.   But here’s the point:  do I read the Bible once and then move on to other things?  Or do I read it, and read it once more, and read it again.  Each time I read (or listen), it ignites a different series of reflections and responses.  It takes my whole life to read the scriptures.  I never finish.  I read it the slow way.

Some things are slow.  Some things are better slow.  And I will keep hiking slowly.  Maybe I will never finish, but that isn’t the goal.  And I will keep reading scripture slowly.  The goal is to savor each discovery, each view,  each conversation along the way.

So it is good to ask myself the question: what in my life feels like it is moving at a slow pace and how might that be a good thing?

I have quoted Pierre Teilhard de Chardin before when he said:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are all, quite naturally,
impatient in everything to reach the end
without delay.
We should like to skip
the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being
on the way to something unknown,
something new,
and yet it is the law of all progress
that is made by passing through
some stages of instability-
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you….