Spending Time with God Shouldn’t be a To-Do List: The Importance of Slowing Down
Not everyone enjoys the fluctuating life the military offers, but I did. From age six to (almost) 14, my family was stationed in Europe. We did a lot of traveling, too. And while each country is unique, it’s largely consistent across the continent that Europeans love their leisure.
Many European countries have “riposo” or “siesta,” which is a sanctioned break in the middle of the day. Everything shuts down for a couple hours, and workers use the time to drink espresso, spend time with family, or anything to slow down and prioritize physical and mental wellbeing. This is the life I grew up in.
Moving back to America was a major culture shock. Among several differences, what mostly stood out was the fast-paced nature of American society. I’m not here to dissect the interworking’s of this country nor the different governments we’re dealing with. Simply, I’m here to say it was hard to adapt. I noticed how common it was to have a full schedule with little flexibility, as if the general default was go, go, go!
Before we moved back to the U.S., an Italian man said to my dad, “You Americans live to work. But we work to live!” And that statement felt so real when I compared the two lifestyles.
To this day, I wrestle with the desire for the simplicity and slowness that the Europeans seemingly have hardwired in their DNA. But aside from those thoughts, what I care far more about now is how this busy lifestyle impacts the life of the church. As I reflect on the cultural differences I’ve experienced, and I see how it affects the mind, soul, and spirit, I realize there is a conversation among Christians worth having. And that is about the importance of slowing down when we spend time with the Lord.
Martin Luther, well known for his role in the Protestant Reformation, said, “Work, work, from morning until late at night. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.” How unheard of! As a believer, how often can you say that your busy schedule leads to hours of spiritual dedication? I, for one, cannot say that happens to me. Rather, it’s my busy schedule that keeps me away from my devotions the most. “I just can’t find the time.” Sound familiar?
We don’t spend time with God in the morning, because we couldn’t get up early enough and then rush out the door. Throughout the day, we zoom from point A, to point B, etc. Even our meals we often shove down. We rush through so many things and can clearly see how it affects us, because it’s exhausting!
But our time with the Lord isn’t meant to mimic our busy lifestyles. If anything, it’s meant to bring joy into them! Our devotions are designed to strengthen our heart, mind, and soul. Knowledge of God and His Word serve as the spiritual nourishment we need to grow in the fruits of the Spirit.
We can’t treat God the same way we treat our to-do lists. If we let our busy lives force us to rush our time in Scripture and prayer, we deprive ourselves of all the benefits of slowing down. When analyzing how professionals treat their crafts, it may surprise you how much we can apply to our faith.
A concert pianist doesn’t perform after glancing at the sheet music once but spends hours practicing note by note to make sure each is hit with precision. An athlete doesn’t step on the field after lying on the couch all week but practices for hours to ensure nearly perfect form and technique. Professional food and beverage critics don’t scarf down what they have been given but take each bite or sip slowly to make sure they can observe all the different tasting notes.
As followers of Christ, we must know the God we serve and what He calls us to do for His glory and our good. But that won’t happen if our time with the Lord is really just a fleeting glance at the Bible app verse of the day. It won’t happen if the only reason why you finished that Bible reading plan is because you skimmed over each chapter. Don’t get me wrong, something is likely better than nothing, but we should value God (and ourselves) more than to only give the bare minimum.
I know how crazy life gets. I know how hard it can be to read the Bible without obsessing over the clock, or how easily distracted we get when trying to pray. But I also know how infinitely better life is when we discipline ourselves to slow down and prioritize prayer and Scripture before the workday. I know how much easier it is to love and show compassion when the Word is written on our hearts, which requires diligence to memorize. I know how much more the Lord speaks to us through the pages of Scripture when we read slowly and even go back to re-read what was just read.
We say we “don’t have the time,” but pastor and theologian John Piper once said, “One of the great uses of [social media] will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” I highlight that because, for many (albeit not everyone), a deep analysis of our day-to-day life often reveals significant time is given to unnecessary things. If you often scroll through social media, watch football, or hang with friends, then it turns out you do, indeed, have at least some time.
I’m not here to guilt trip but to emphasize how easily the very thing we need most gets shoved aside or rushed through. It makes me wonder, how many genuinely believe time in prayer and the Bible is transformative? For me, it was a year of Bible college, when reading the Bible was homework, that I understood just how transformative it is. The more I read the Bible for school, the more I felt I couldn’t go a day without it if I wanted to be the person God is calling me to be. After I noticed how the consistent, slow time in the Word changed me, it seemed as necessary as the air I breathe.
We have a beautiful example in Luke 10 when Jesus was in Martha and Mary’s house. Understandably, Martha was upset Mary had stopped helping to sit with Jesus, forcing Martha to take on hosting by herself. Even so, Luke described her service as a “distraction,” and Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Beloved, you’re anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is necessary. When all is said and done, and this world is behind you, there is one thing going with you into eternity: your soul. So, I urge you to choose the good portion, because nothing else will provide what your soul needs most. And not just your soul, but the souls you are called to pour into.
Compared to eternity, your time on earth is but a moment. Right now is all you have, so slow down, and fill your soul with what matters most.
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.