Advent: Slow Me Down, Lord
The other day I was trying to shoehorn a couple of errands in before the beginning of my workday. I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things and got in line to check out. I had only a couple of items and there was just one person in front of me so I thought it would be a quick process. Wrong! The cashier was chatting and moving deliberately, to say the least. It seemed to be taking a long time for her to complete the transaction and I found myself getting impatient.
Why can’t we speed this up? I thought to myself with some annoyance.
Then I remembered to pause, breathe, and observe. My agenda was not going to move things along any faster.
As I refocused, I noticed that the cashier was a trainee. She had a coach/supervisor there at her side helping with bagging. This worker was taking her time to get it right and attend to her customer (Do you need help with your bags? Please take this customer survey. Here is an offer for free dishes with our rewards program!)
In my life and work, I am often anxious for change. When starting a new project, I can be in a rush to see immediate results. I can get discouraged when wading through the chaos that often surfaces in the middle. And, I can be impatient to arrive at a settled end point.
On a global scale I often find myself despairing about the pace of change. Why haven’t we made more progress on this issue? What will it take to move the needle forward? How can it be that we are still be debating this issue?
When I am wishing that God would hurry in and do the work of holy transformation, these words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin are a good reminder:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are 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 it is made by passing through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
— Excerpted from Hearts on Fire
As I drove home that same morning, I found myself behind a school bus. My grip on the steering wheel tightened as the big vehicle stopped and turned on flashing lights at every other block. I willed myself to sit back, to relax and breathe. I watched the eager five-year-olds, laden with oversized backpacks, climb aboard as parents waved them off, and then lifted up a petition: God, watch over these sweet children and all those who teach, nurture, and care for them.
We will enter the season of Advent in just a few short weeks. Let us all pause and be attentive to the Spirit during this time of waiting. Even when we are anxious for God to be revealed anew, we can remember that the process of waiting during times of uncertainty is, in itself, a holy endeavor.
One way to observe this practice is to join our online Advent Chapel of the Heart on Wednesday mornings beginning on November 30. Give yourself the gift of some quiet time for prayer and reflection.
Prayer: God, forgive me when the ticking clock makes me impatient. Help me to trust in your presence and perseverance. Help me to pay attention today and in the coming season as you reveal yourself in marvelous and mysterious ways.