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Journey, Patience

The Speed of God: Being Patient and Slowing Down

The Japanese theologian Kazuki Koyama provocatively called 3 miles per hour “The speed of God,” since it was the speed at which Jesus of Nazareth moved for almost his entire life. The modern world, however, travels fast, far more than 3 mph. Still, there is much wisdom in these words given how much pressure there is to both stay busy and demand immediacy for all things.

From remote work changing our schedules to cell phones opening us up to 24-7 access, the lines between time for ourselves and external demands are blurred. With constant alerts, be they banners or bells, it’s changed our own expectations (we’re less patient) and keeps us, some days, in a virtual frenzy mode. So how can we slow down and learn to be more patient with ourselves and our worlds? How might that change us and our experience of the modern world? Moving at the exact speed of God may be beyond modern reach, but we can get close and find more peace in being still.

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What Does it Mean to Slow Down?

Take a minute and reflect on your schedule. For many of us, there are a few moments before our feet hit the ground when our brains aren’t rapid firing lists and must-do’s, replaying or rehearsing conversations, or reviewing our packed schedule for the day. Those moments are glorious, no? Imagine if you could have them throughout your day rather than focusing on the future and feeling overwhelmed or rushed.

That’s what slowing down is about. It’s about noticing the light coming through the window, your head on the pillow, the sounds of your household or neighborhood waking up, the beep of an alarm, and letting that pass, simply noticing, and not reacting, at least not immediately. It’s about taking time to breathe and moving at the speed of God. That kind of stillness is what keeps us centered; that’s what slowing down is about; it’s about being in the moment.

And that’s where patience enters the picture.

What Does Being Patient Mean?

The dictionary defines patience as “The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” By its very definition, patience cannot act alone. In other words, it requires other skills or attributes because often, one does not simply accept things at the snap of their fingers.

Let’s be more specific for a second. How does one accept delays? By not being tied to time or rather the future, such as where we need to be in ten minutes. If we slow down a bit, perhaps avoid overscheduling ourselves, we open up space (and time) for patience.

Accepting trouble or suffering is also, in part, about practicing gratitude and understanding that there is a lesson in everything, that sometimes even trouble is a gift because we can take so much more from the experience than just the inconvenience or pain.

Often in our lives, we’re required to be patient with others and ourselves, especially when things take longer than expected. Imagine someone moving at the speed of God when you’re in a rush. Is their speed the problem, or is our impatience? If we’re honest, this is us focusing on the future and avoiding focusing on the present moment and what it may be offering to us. In this way, patience is tied both to gratitude and slowing down.

How are Slowing Down and Being Patient Connected?

Remember that early morning moment we mentioned? One of the things that makes it one of life’s joys is that right at that moment, it’s where you’re supposed to be, it’s where you want to be, and it’s where you are. That’s what enables us to be present in that moment.

When we’re impatient, it’s often because we’re not experiencing the moment. We’re thinking about what comes next, or what we’d like to come next, where else we’d like to be, what else we need to do etc. If we slow down, if we’re patient, we can also experience the moment we’re in, be present with the people around us and with us, and, with any luck, be grateful for all of it.

Why are Patience and Slowing Down Important?

We’re here for a limited amount of time. That means we also have limited time with the people who are important to us, and we will have limited experiences in our lifetimes. If we don’t slow down, if we can’t be patient with the moments that try us, we don’t grow and we don’t have the full experiences God intends for us. We’ll miss most of those moments, focused instead on the future and frustration.

Think back to the last time you were in a rush. How much of the world around you did you see? Other than your racing thoughts and preoccupation with where you needed to be and what would happen when you got there, do you recall any thoughts or feelings? Likely not.

Now think back to your favorite memories. They’re likely marked by sensory experiences. You remember what you saw and heard, who you were with, and what was going on around you. It’s probably almost like time stood still…or maybe just slowed down.

Being patient and slowing down are keys to actually experiencing life in the moment, to enabling us to be present for others, and ourselves. And, being patient allows us to slow down.

How to Practice Patience and Slow Down

A lot of people erroneously believe that patience is innate. How often have you heard, said, or thought “I’m just not a patient person.” The truth is that patience, like gratitude, can be practiced and the more we practice, the better we get. And, the extra bonus is we may find that more patience helps us build better relationships and helps you stay more relaxed and happier.

But how do you build patience? We’re not going to ask you to put yourselves in situations that “try your patience” because, thankfully, there are plenty of ways to practice patience on your own.

1. Meditation and mindfulness training
Meditation and mindfulness are a great way to learn to slow down and focus. It can train us to focus on our breathing, acknowledge thoughts and feelings, and let them go. Part of learning patience is disconnecting from the frustration we may feel or from our connection/hyperfocus on the future. It teaches us to be in the moment and ground ourselves. It’s one of the reasons we encourage our community to check out our daily 10 Minutes of Calm which can help you include this practice in your daily activities.

2. Practice listening skills
What do listening skills have to do with patience? Think about how often we are thinking of what we’d like to say rather than listening to someone who’s speaking to us. This is impatience. We are not focused on the moment but rather what comes next.

So, how does one practice active listening? It’s more than just not talking, though experts suggest only talking 10-20% of the time. Instead, other techniques, such as mirroring and asking clarifying questions are great strategies for active listening.

3. Practice gratitude
As we mentioned, practicing gratitude can help you practice patience. It helps us see moments not as inconveniences but as gifts and opportunities. If we’re grateful for the people we’re with, the places we find ourselves, and the experiences we’re having, we are able to be present. Patience is about being focused on the moment and gratitude allows us to do that.

4. Check your schedule (slow down)
For many of us, the reason we’re impatient is because we’re focused on what we have to do next. We, unfortunately, live in a culture that elevates busyness and packed schedules, but is that your value? When you look at your schedule, are those all really things you need to do? Sure we’re committed to our families, our friends, our various communities, but learning to say no, lighten our load, and slow down, can help us appreciate how we spend our time and help us be present.

5. Check your expectations (and let them go!)
One of the reasons we often lose patience is because we have expectations around an experience or around others. We think “this will just take 5 minutes” and when it doesn’t? We grow impatient. We expect others to perform or behave in a specific way and when they don’t? We grow impatient.

But, if we can let go of our expectations? If we don’t put a time limit on things? If we, instead, focus on the moment we’re in and go in open minded, we can experience it as it’s happening and be fully present. We are not in a rush nor are we rushing others. We just are.

The truth is our souls travel slowly, even if our world doesn’t. This is why slowing down and being patient is, measurably, more taxing than at other times. Why is that true? The need for stillness in a world that clamors for activity, and when we actively and willingly sign on for that clamor, is difficult.

But it doesn’t have to be. The peace of the soul, as Jesus noted, “Passes all understanding”. “Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 12:27). It is a peace beautifully discovered in interior stillness, not in the agitations of our external lives. That interior stillness comes from us learning to slow down and practice patience in front of a world that demands otherwise.

It’s not easy, but it’s very much worth it. And, perhaps most importantly, you don’t have to do it alone. One of the reasons why we work to create community is that through community we not only find support, but we also find discussions and practical solutions to help us achieve the growth we desire.

If you’re ready to connect with a church community that can help you along your spiritual journey, including practicing patience, reach out to us today. Whether it’s our 10 Minutes of Calm, volunteering, or our book club our community is consistently looking for ways to help our members with the practices that enrich their lives. As we like to remind folks, wherever you are on your journey, be patient with yourself; it is, afterall, a journey so slowing down to appreciate it is a big part of the experience.