A few days ago, I discovered the exquisite work of a local potter, Dominika Yindi. Her pieces exude a poignant mix of strength and vulnerability: Her handmade mugs and bowls are inscribed with thought provoking words. One of my favourite pieces is a stoneware bowl with the words 'slow down' scrawled in large handwriting across the inside. I imagine that there’d be something almost meditative about eating wholesome soup from this bowl, of savouring each mouthful, of giving thanks, of simultaneously holding the vessel and being held by the beauty and simplicity of the moment. And it got me wondering about those words, 'slow down'.
The following morning, I decided to walk to Morialta Conservation Park which is not far from my home. My intention - in the light of the beautiful message in Dominika’s bowl - was to do just that - to walk slowly, to indulge my senses and to enjoy the wander. Once there I heard the cacophony of birdsong, the rustle of gum leaves, the distant hum of planes overhead, the splash of creek water, the slow croak of frogs and the hubbub of voices from people walking past. I could smell the eucalypts. I noticed their grand, white, trunks and branches reaching to the sky, and rows of Arum lilies nestled along the creek’s edge like little ballerinas resplendent in white tutus. I felt incredible joy from the transcendence of this experience and that God was speaking to me.
On the way home I came across a tree with a cascade of blossom trailing along its branches. The filagree threads of a spider web had caught some petals so that from a distance it looked like party streamers waving in the wind. I got a sense of the preciousness of life, the importance of pausing and noticing and appreciating the beauty of God’s creation.
In her book, The way through the woods, Long Litt Woon describes the solace she found foraging for mushrooms in a forest as a way of coping with crippling grief after her husband’s sudden death. She writes:
One thing is the sense of mastery that comes with more knowledge and more practice in exploring a forest. Something else, and quite unexpected is the feeling of euphoria: my heart leapt the first time I found a delicious edible mushroom on my own. Was this happiness? It was staggering to actually feel an emotion I thought had gone for good when Eiolf died…As the world of mushrooms opened up to me, I began to see that the path back to life was easier than I had thought. It was simply a matter of gathering delights that flash and sparkle. All I had to do was follow the mushroom trail, even though I still didn’t know where it would lead. (Long, 2019, p. 27)
Slowing down is also restorative for our faith journey as we make time to commune with God who knows us intimately and who is with us during hard times. Often, we hurry, keep busy and numb or run from pain. But if we still our hearts before Him we will find the comfort we need. In Isaiah 30;15 we read, “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: 'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength'. (ESV)
Jesus never rushed. He was in constant communion with His Father. The demands of others did not worry Him. He trusted God. This brings to mind the account of His unhurried response to the pressing need of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. The story is recorded in Luke 8; 42 – 48 (NIV)
42 As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years,[c] but no one could heal her.44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
Prior to noticing the sick woman, Jesus had been approached by Jairus, a leader in the synagogue, to heal his dying daughter. However, on his way to attend to the girl, he noticed the woman and slowed down to attend to her despite the expectations of others to hurry to Jairus’ daughter. We too can be intentional about slowing things down so that we do not miss the whispers of the Holy Spirit prompting us to really 'see' into the lives of others, to be truly 'present', holding space for them to be their authentic selves, and reaching out in kindness and compassion.
One obstacle to slowing down in life is the pressure of time. We have so many to-do lists and things that we want to get done. Yet no matter how hard we try our in-box is never empty! I find comfort in the wise words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 (NIV)
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
9 What gain has the worker from his toil?
10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Solomon reminds us that God is the author and orchestrator of time. He exists outside of its constraints. Unlike time, His love knows no beginning or end and is eternal. He knows the order of our days, the people we will encounter and what gives our lives meaning and purpose. Every moment is sacred. Slowing down helps us to breathe, to open our eyes, hearts and minds and to live in His rhythm of rest and trust. I invite you to slow down and linger a little longer on your way today.
'Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.'
Michelle Krieg is an art therapist and a student wellbeing officer at Tabor Adelaide. 'Slow down' was featured on Dr Phil Daughtry's podcast "The Contemplative Corner": https://contemplativecorner429865032.wordpress.com