A common complaint that non-Western cultures voice about Americans is that, if they want to make plans with us, they have to schedule everything two weeks in advance. With pressing work schedules, short vacations, a plethora of extracurricular activities, and the overriding sense of urgency, our lives leave no room for the lingering moment. We value the short, quick, and expedient. Sound-bytes dominate the airwaves, offering less and less while stealing more and more time, and the world moves at a dizzying pace. Thomas L. Friedman’s latest book, Thank You for Being Late, describes this hustle: “We are living at one of the greatest inflection points in history . . . . The three largest forces on the planet—technology, globalization, and climate change—are all accelerating at once” (3). While most people are “overwhelmed by it all,” Friedman argues, “in such a time, opting to pause and reflect, rather than panic or withdraw, is a necessity” (4). If he’s right, the only way to survive the pace is to buck the trend and . . . pause.
Christ’s followers ought to lead the way in slowing down; Jesus never lived in a hurry, never let the expedient dictate, and never neglected the important for the urgent. Even when urgent news reached His ears (as in John 11, when He heard about Lazarus’s illness), He waited on the Father’s timing, rather than respond even to His friend’s need. He often took time to be by Himself, and it may be that the incredible power of His ministry bubbled up from the depths of intimacy enjoyed in solitary time with His Father. If Jesus, who had the most important ministry in all of history, saw pausing and reflecting as essential, how much more should His followers adopt His example?
As the new year approaches, the pace of life will not slow down; we as Christ-followers must deliberately interrupt its flow, slowing down, pausing, and taking time to listen to God. One practical way to put the brakes on is to open God’s Word on a daily basis, and this works most fruitfully with a plan. The plan should involve a specific time, a specific place, and a guide to read the Word of God in an orderly fashion. I use the One-Year Chronological Bible, which breaks down Bible reading into daily portions that allow me to digest the Word and keep the flow of the story.
Having a simple set of questions to aid in reading and understanding the day’s Bible passage also aids greatly in comprehension and growth. Factual questions, such as “Who are the main people in this story?”, “What did he do next?”, and “What happened next?” aid in keeping track of story flow. Inferential questions, like “What does this teach me about God, people, sin, forgiveness?”, etc., open the text to deeper understanding of themes that run through the whole Bible. Connection and review questions (“Where have I seen something like this happen before?”) tie multiple stories together and reveal patterns in people’s and God’s behavior. Application questions help to give us a way to respond to what God is revealing to us each day, and aid in our communication with God as we respond to Him in prayer.
Learning to wait upon God daily (Proverbs 8:34) has helped me to develop the discipline of listening to God and to keep on growing in grace. Pausing and waiting on God has produced reflection and renewal to survive and even thrive in the pace of these days. How will you build the habit of listening to God and reflecting on Him as life accelerates around you?