I was at a conference this weekend where Mark Yaconelli shared a wonderful story about his son. Every morning Mark tried to get his two sons ready for school and every morning it ended with him having to make a run for it to make it on time. The biggest reason for their delay was that his youngest son Joseph just couldn’t hurry. He walked slowly, enjoying every fallen leaf, every odd shaped rock along the way. No matter what his dad tried, he couldn’t get Joseph to walk faster.
Mark was frustrated by this, but so was Joseph. He expressed that frustration by starting a new club: Slow Club. The one rule of slow club was that you couldn’t hurry, you had to do everything slow. After much nagging, Joseph finally persuaded Mark to become a member, for just one day. But that one day of not hurrying, of taking the time to enjoy your surroundings, to wonder at little marvelous surprises like squirrels and flowers, that one day showed Mark his son had something that he himself had lost: the ability to wonder.
Our soul is in constant wonder and wants to slow down and appreciate all that we see, feel, hear and taste. It wants us to slow down and enjoy what’s happening around us and in us. It wants us to wonder.
If we keep hurrying, keep doing, keep being busy, we lose that sense of wonder. We lose the deep peace and satisfaction that wonder can bring. Ultimately, we lose the connection with our soul, with who we are.
There’s nothing wrong with working hard, with doing things for God. God has given us all gifts and talents and He enjoys it when we use those for His glory. But He doesn’t want us keep running without ever taking a break. He doesn’t want us to be so busy doing, that we never have time to just be. God wants us to wonder. It’s God who has created our souls with that very longing.
Slowing down is hard and it’s definitely scary. Because slowing down not only brings us wonder and joy and enjoyment, it also gives us time to think, to re-connect with how we are feeling. Many of us have become very good at suppressing our real thoughts and feelings by keeping going, by working and above all not stopping. Well, slowing down means we do stop and take notice of how we are feeling, what we are feeling. And that can be quite scary.
In the end, it’s the only way though. We may survive in youth work by not slowing down, but we’ll never thrive. If we want to thrive, we have to listen to that deep inner longing to wonder. We have to slow down.
I’m very aware of the fact that I’m saying this as much to myself as I am to you. If there has ever been someone who has a hard time slowing down, it’s me. Slowing down doesn’t come natural to me at all. But this weekend at the conference I attended, I did slow down. I sat in an Ignatian retreat (also led by Mark Yaconelli) for a whole day and boy, did that slow me down. It gave me time to assess how I was feeling and I didn’t like what I was feeling at all.
So I’ve decided to become a member of Slow Club. Not every day, not all the time, but often enough so I can keep a good pulse with how I’m doing on the inside. I want to satisfy my soul in its longing for wonder, so I’m gonna slow down. I hope you’ll become a member too. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Do you recognize being to busy to slow down and wonder? What could you do to change that?
This post was inspired by talks Mark Yaconelli gave at the Youthwork Summit in Manchester last weekend. If you’re not familiar with Mark or his books, I’d recommend reading Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus or one of his other books.