Keeping Up in a Fast Paced World

Judging by the media, the world is changing rapidly and there are more questions than answers in how best to respond. The world of high finance wonders what will happen if Greece and Puerto Rico default on their debts, and whether the ripples will trigger fallout that will reach us all. The Supreme Court has determined that gay marriage is a right, and so must be deemed legal in every state. Though numerous countries have launched air strikes against its positions, ISIS continues to advance, and terrorist and racial violence unfolds in sickening frequency, even as America’s TSA fails—in spectacular fashion—a test of its ability to do its job.

My tendency when events and change seem to speed up is to ratchet up my own speed. Since the world is moving at a faster pace, I need to keep up by living at a faster pace. Only makes sense. Except that it doesn’t—make sense, I mean.

“Above all,” paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We would 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. Above all, trust in the slow work of God, our loving vine-dresser.” And many will say that is what doesn’t make sense.

The challenge is not to commit oneself to what makes no sense but to be changed so that we see life and reality with greater clarity. After all, when something makes absolutely no sense to me there are two possible explanations: it may be idiocy or I may be an idiot.

Two of the most radically counter-cultural notions in the scriptures are “Be still” and “Wait patiently.” If you doubt that, try living by them.

“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him,” David wrote so long ago. Yet everything in my world and in me seems designed to push me in the opposite direction until both stillness and patience look impossible, inefficient and irresponsible. “Don’t worry about evil people who prosper,” David added, “or fret about their wicked schemes.” Sometimes my reality is so far from his wisdom that I find myself fretting about fretting.

The verb, “be still” also means, “be silent,” a condition that is equally difficult today. Our compulsion to answer our cell phones and check apps and email suggests we may not be all that comfortable with silence. My ability to distract myself is really quite impressive.

If what we are considering here does not seem normal it is only because we are broken people living in an abnormal world and seeing it all through very broken eyes. When we glimpse life and reality through the spectacles of scripture we still see dimly but from that vantage point being still, silent and waiting patiently for the slow work of God turns out to be the only way of life that makes any sense at all.

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands,” St Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica. “Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live.” That might be nice to try someday.


Common Prayer: A Liturgy For Ordinary Radicals by Shane Caliborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro (Zondervan, 2010) p. 335. Psalms 37:1,7 from Revised Standard Version and New Living Translation; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 from New Living Translation.