Transformation Begins in Slowing Down

Transformation Begins in Slowing Down

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Well, it’s over.

By the time you read this, you might have eaten 6 weeks worth of chocolate or binge watched Netflix or put away whatever spiritual practice you took on. Me? I plan to put Easter decorations away and finish projects that got set aside the hubbub of Holy Week.  

Life will be back to normal, hallelujah and praise be to God.

This is, of course, exactly not the point of Easter. Every year I do this, though–invest all my energy into the preparations so that by the time it’s over I have no energy left for the actual transformation. Someone (perhaps N.T. Wright, although I can’t place it exactly) writes about this phenomenon. They make the point that Lent isn’t meant to be the main show. And yet, year after year, we exhaust ourselves “doing Lent right” or at least “getting ready for the Easter holiday” and forget about living Easter right.

It’s like gorging yourself on appetizers and leaving no room for dinner.

On Maundy Thursday, our church held a service of lament. Using Jesus’ last words from the cross, we cried out our pain and suffering, naming all of the ways our hearts are heavy for this world. We had plenty to cry out. Bombs are being used, water is being polluted, children are starving and the things seem very dark indeed.

We are desperate for transformation–literally dying for it.

So on Holy Friday, I devoted my prayer time to this question: how do I move forward from this place? How do we all move forward into Easter, not just as the celebration of a holiday but as a way of life that can transform the world? How do we keep believing that the world is being transformed, when the news cycles and our personal stories too often point to the contrary?

Per usual, God didn’t hand me The Great To-Do List, with all of God’s plans clearly laid out. This is always frustrating for me but after years of experience with it, I’m getting better at handling my irritation. So instead of leaving Easter with all of the answers to life and death, I’m leaving it with only a sense of longing.

But then maybe this is the answer to my prayer for transformation. Maybe instead of running around desperately trying to fix all the things, we need to get comfortable with the heartache. Indeed, I wonder if our desire for the “quick fix” is the thing standing between us and God’s reign.

Last week, many Christians immersed themselves in a story that quickly move from the cries of a happy crowd to the shouts of a blood-thirsty mob. It’s hard to overlook the fact that a grand desire for expediency drives the entire narrative. We love Jesus as long as he’s promising to take on the empire but our disappointment runs deep and vengeful when we realize his plan involves a lot of sitting around with the poor. And the authorities fall into the trap too–trying to solve a problem too quickly, rushing through late night meetings and ignoring the advice of the more savvy members of their staff and families. Resorting to action that is swift, decisive and violent.

So maybe this year transformation starts with rejecting the quick fix. Maybe it starts with spending more time in prayer and less time in planning meetings. Maybe it begins when we  embrace ambiguity and let go of urgency. Maybe it even starts when we agree to stay small, and make time to see God in other people, and do good where we can.

Maybe transformation happens for us all when we stop looking for our to-do list, and start looking for our center.

I don’t know. These are all maybes. But I do know that the tragedy of fast action and quick decision making has been playing out for at least 2000 years, not just in politics but in personal lives.  And so maybe, just maybe, it’s time we tried another way.

4 thoughts on “Transformation Begins in Slowing Down

  1. We spend so much time trying to either avoid pain completely or “fix” the world quickly. I mentioned this to my daughter the other day. There is a pill for everything, and we laugh at all the whispered side effects one will suffer instead. How telling. I’m thinking, too, of how long God’s people waited for a Messiah, and how in many ways we live as if we are still waiting.

    1. Isn’t that so true? “Trying to avoid pain all completely or fix the world quickly,” which of course I’m prone to doing as well. But maybe real trust would look like something completely different.

  2. “Resorting to action that is swift, decisive and violent.”
    Sadly, there are few left who freely choose to fight a war to end all wars only now to find us back with the mindset that created that war.

    1. The penchant towards war is heavy on so many hearts now. It is funny (but not funny) that we think the way to end war is to fight a really big one. Thanks for such a powerful thought to ponder!

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