I am a self-proclaimed master at multi-tasking. Seriously, in the evenings, you can find me
cooking dinner for my family of five, while helping my son with his homework, while potty
training both our new puppy and our two-year-old, while researching the cheapest price on
toys for Christmas, while breaking up a fight between my two youngest kids, while returning
a phone call, while clipping coupons, while… I could go on.
Now before this has the chance to strike you as commendable, let me be the first to say
that I believe it is not worthy of applause. Nor does it bring a refreshing sigh of relief at the
end of the day or a feeling that I have gotten it all done – or at least done right. No,
instead I often feel emptied out, the frazzled shell of the person I want to be. Time passes
and my to-do list doesn’t get shorter. Actually, it gets longer the more time I have to add to
it. Oh, and have I mentioned that the holidays are only now just beginning? Life moves
past at warp-speed. If I even take a second to glance out the window, I see the scenery
whizzing past. I just want it all to slow down. But how?
The Psalmist reminds us in beautiful simplicity: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:
10). The irony is that we do not need to rush around faster and do more to find God; we
actually have to move slower…to become still…to wait. There is the promise that when we
stop, really stop, and pause our busy lives, we can know our Lord and Savior. Because
when we are quiet and still, God can begin to speak to our heart and we can hear His
grace. Before Jesus was born, he was known as Immanuel: God with us. God desires to
be with us, and He can most directly accomplish this when we stop trying to accomplish and
just be. Just be present and rest in His presence.
For me, this means putting aside my to-do lists and pausing throughout the day to spend
some time alone and in the quiet. Not easy to do in my bustling household. But as Ann
Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, reminds us, “If we don’t take breaks, we break.” I
used to get discouraged by the idea of spending time in silence and solitude because I
thought I would have to really get away – for a whole weekend at minimum. I’ve been
encouraged lately, however, that the time frame doesn’t matter. Instead, simply taking a
few minutes in the middle of a busy day to seek the quiet and to become still can slow me
down enough to hear God’s message of grace. And in turn, my focus shifts to the Maker
of the universe who wants to know me and spend time with me. And I begin to know God in
a way I couldn’t otherwise during all the hustle and bustle.
This brings me to the notion of “single-tasking” rather than “multi-tasking.” We live in a
culture than esteems efficiency and productivity. It seems the more things we can get
done in a moment, the better. However, moving at this pace creates the blurred scenery
effect: the landscape whizzes by and our eyes can’t take in any of our surroundings
clearly. Instead, when we slow down and do one thing at time – to actually do what we’re
doing, this allows us to really live, to see the small things that we would otherwise miss at
our harried pace. If we don’t learn to pause, everything lumps together and we miss the
small joys. And our relationships – with God, with others, with ourselves – suffer. I still
have a long way to go to learn this, to really take it in. But I am trying. I find that it takes
being intentional. I intentionally stop my cleaning to play a game of hide-and-seek with my
kids. I intentionally put aside my emails to tickle my baby’s tummy and hear that precious
squeal. I intentionally disregard the mess around me and invite my neighbor in anyway
and share a conversation. I intentionally give the full weight of my attention in order to be
fully present with those around me.
This idea of being present shines through in the Message version of Romans 1:20: “But
the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long
and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what
their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of His divine
being.” Again, it’s the reminder that we need to take the time to look around and survey
what God has created. This entails seeing God’s presence even in the mundane details of
our lives, keeping our eyes focused on the Living God as we move about our days. I’ve
learned that I can survive the doing of my days when I keep the being of my life intact.
This means quieting my own life so that I can focus on the unseen, that which is eternal. I
admit this is really hard for me sometimes. I feel myself pulled to press into the long list of
things to do, those things that seem so very important to me at the time. However, it is
when we experience God’s presence in the quiet, in the still moments, we realize how little
we are compared to the Almighty. We can reflect on what is truly important and ultimately
gain perspective. I find this is especially important as we enter this Advent season. A
Christmas card I received years ago says it well:
If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things, if we consider ourselves so
unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have time
to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the
stars as did the Shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary?
I hope you’ll join me this Advent season in taking the time to take time. Slow down and
allow yourself to be still. Truly be present with those around you, with God, with yourself.
These slow, quiet moments will allow us to hear God and His message of grace. And,
really, what could be more soul-filling and worthy of our time than that?