I've always liked to walk fast.
My husband used to joke that he could tell if I was coming to his office because he recognized my footsteps in the hallway.
No matter how quickly I moved, though, it never seemed to me that I was moving fast enough. It seemed reasonable to me that if I could move faster, I could get more done. And if I could get more done, I'd be more valuable--to others, to the world, to myself.
Then I met Dallas Willard. "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life," he'd say.
That's the advice Dallas would give people when they asked about how best to care for their souls.
Dallas was echoing the advice of saints through the ages.
"Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset," taught Bishop Francis de Sales in the early 17th century.
In the mid-20th century, Thomas Kelly wrote: "Much of our acceptance of multitudes of obligations is due to our inability to say No. We calculated that the task had to be done, and we saw no one ready to undertake it. We calculated the need, and then calculated our time, and decided maybe we could squeeze it in somewhere. But the decision was a heady decision, not made within the sanctuary of the soul. When we say Yes or No to calls for service on the basis of heady decisions, we have to give reasons, to ourselves and to others. But when we say Yes or No to calls on the basis of inner guidance and whispered promptings of encouragement from the Center of our life, or in the basis of a lack of any inward "rising" of that Life to encourage us in the call, we have no reason to give, except one--the will of God as we discern it. Then we have begun to live in guidance. And I find He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness" (A Testament of Devotion).
I liked to think that hurry was desirable, or at least unavoidable--that it was thrust upon me by the demands of life. Then I'd listen again to Dallas's words, and I realize that hurry was often my choice.
I hate to admit it, but I still choose to hurry. Squeezing too much into a given day makes me feel vital. There's so much to do! No time to spare, no chance to dawdle, no opportunity to rest. My head has learned better, but my feet revert to their old ways of rushing. I want to move fast; after all, I don't want to miss anything.
Then it snows. And like it or not, there's no way to rush out to do things. Schools and businesses are closed. Meetings are cancelled. Events are postponed. People must stay home. There's no need to turn on the alarm clock, much less a back-up alarm.
A little stillness is enforced on me.
As I've reflected on my love for moving quickly, I've recognized an irony: in moving fast so that I don't miss anything, I've missed a lot. My life is full of beauty and richness. It's all there for me to enjoy and appreciate--if I don't miss it in my rush to obtain something else.
"You were smart to slide your feet like that," I said to him.
"That's how I always walk on snow and ice," he answered. "It's the only way not to fall."
As I shuffled and slid my own feet back to the house, I couldn't help but think that not falling is a good goal in a slippery world.
Thank you, Lord, for the stillness of a snow day.