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Busy busy busy

How are you? I tend to answer that question in one of two ways as a rule. Either, ‘oh fine, fine’, or ‘busy.’ I favour the first if I don’t know the questioner well, and the second if I’m feeling insecure. It has become both a cliche of our day that we’re all busy, and of course mostly we are.

Last week I listened to a fascinating Andrew Marr show on Radio 4 entitled, ‘Life is getting faster, faster.’ I commend it to you. I heard that as our society has become more individualistic, and has grown larger so the speed at which we accomplish everyday tasks has risen. Apparently even our walking speed has accelerated (mine certainly has, as Katie often reminds me). The increase in computer processing power coupled with the individual and corporate cult of innovation, reinvention and novelty have combined to propel us ever on in our ambition to head-butt the horizon.

And it certainly rang true with me. It takes an act of discipline to use something as slow as the oven (much better to use the microwave or toaster), and to do one thing at once (much better to have my news feed open on my ‘phone, whilst listening to the radio and replying to emails all at once). But what I found absolutely fascinating was the observation that this acceleration is only half of the story. There is an increasingly influential school of thought called ‘the slow movement’ which seeks to advocate anything being done in the time it demands, and no faster. Slow thought, slow cooking, slow meditation, slow sex… And increasingly people aren’t writing them off as hessian and homeopathic-loving hippies, as was once the case. People are listening. I was listening. One of their advocates was on Radio 4, and I was tuned in (and no longer doing my emails).

What do we do with all this? It would be simplistic and impractical simply to say we need to slow down again. In order to make an impact for Christ in our fast society, there will be many times when we will need to move fast also. It cannot be the case that employment sectors such as front of house trading and boarding school teaching which both celebrate long hours and fast-twitch thinking and activity are off limits for all Christians. In addition, there is a godly place for the quick. I was reminded of the constant refrain of “immediately” throughout Mark’s gospel. Not only does it give a dynamism to his gospel, but perhaps it bears testimony to our dynamic Saviour who had no place to lay his head. Think also of the Apostle Paul’s godly restlessness to take the gospel to those who were as yet us reached through Acts. There is a place for the fast, for the Christian.

Perhaps the art we need to relearn is one of changing gear, or recognising which gear is appropriate for any given time or task? Efficiency is a concept which is nonsensical when applied to many areas, especially those pertaining to relationship. One cannot be efficient and get two date nights completed in one evening, for example! Relationships need time – quality and quantity time, and so it is with our relationship with the Lord Jesus. The Christian discipline of meditation where one chews over Scriptural promises, warnings and commands (not to be confused with Eastern meditation where the mind is emptied) requires time. It is something, as the Psalmists will often remind us, is best done “night and day.”

John Ash


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