It was a typical afternoon on which I thankfully ended my day at work, threw on my sandals, hopped into my faithful Protégé and headed out to a friend’s house. I negotiated the traffic carefully, guiding my way onto the interstate with the hopes of speeding down a couple of exits and saving time. Instantly, I saw that this was not to be. I found myself trapped in the slow lane.
You know this situation because you’ve been there. You pull onto the freeway, anxiously checking your mirrors, doing that frantic glance back over your shoulder in order to make your move, pulling your way into the stream of traffic. Yet, you can’t move. No, you’re stuck behind a monolith of a truck, carrying an even bigger contraption that you can only deduce must be crafted for some form of demolition or, at the very least, lifting the space shuttle into launch position. This monstrosity is lurching along at sub-snail speeds while you watch the traffic in the lanes beside you blur into a line of color.
This is not a pretty moment for most of us. I know it wasn’t for me. My temptation, and dare I say action, was to begin with a brilliant epithet rivaling Mr. Snakes on a Plane himself, Samuel Jackson. I had things to do, places to go and this stupid mass plodding along in front of me was keeping me from it! I turned the stereo up louder, as though that would calm me down as frustration filled my thoughts.
Ironically, although hopefully without the Snakes moments, it seems as though we all tend to live our lives this way. We are all in such a rush, moving here and there with a speed that rivals those of any generation. We are the generation of multi-tasking and getting things done quicker than they’ve ever been done. Information is literally at our fingertips nearly every second of the day and the answer to just about any question we have is but the distance from our pinky to the "enter" key. Our cell phones, blackberries and every other mobile device keep us "connected" with one another left and right.
But, somewhere in the midst, things are being lost in translation. Are our relationships better off because of these things? Are we really more connected? What about our relationship with the One that we really claim to value? Do we … do I … make time to connect with Him? Ultimately, why are we so afraid of slowing down? I think the answer is not one we really want to hear.
The truth, as I believe it, is that we are scared of the silence. We are afraid of moments of so-called inactivity. We are petrified of the slow lane because we have allowed ourselves to be defined by the pace of our lives and our accomplishments.
The slow lane does two things to us. First, it makes us simply slow down. In our mindset, this means that we cease to be productive. For us, success is chatting with a friend in Ireland on the Internet while chatting with our girlfriend on our cell while sending a resume via email while pondering some other issue going on. Our western mindset is so set on “doing” that we have forgotten how to be.
Second, the slow lane tends to make us sit in the silence. We cannot rush so we cannot do. The silence is ponderous and chilling to us because, for those few brief moments, we are put into a place where we are alone with ourselves. There is nothing to cover us, no music to push things away, no phone call to interrupt. And we are alone with ourselves. The simple truth is that many of us don’t take the time to really stop and look into ourselves. And in missing out on dealing with the internal, we end up missing God as well.
The Scriptures speak to this issue in numerous place, but for our trouble we’ll simply look to two examples. The first and most used is the passage found in Psalm 46:10, which reads:
Be still and know that I am God. (TNIV)
The people of God are commanded to stop, to breathe, to inhale and acknowledge that He is God. We cannot do this if we are rushing, moving, running here and there constantly. We need to stop.
Another passage that deals with this is the text in 1 Kings 19, which tells the story of the prophet Elijah as he flees for his life, despite mighty works God has just brought to pass. Eventually, God tells Elijah to go out to a mountain and He will meet him there. Elijah does so and watches as a terrible wind comes and tears the mountain apart. This is followed by an earthquake and a burning fire. But God is not in these things. Rather the passage tells us that God came in “a gentle whisper.” We must learn to stop and listen.
You’re going to get caught in the slow lane. It’s inevitable in spite of all that you might do. But perhaps next time, you’ll choose to stay in the slow lane, switch off the radio and thank God for the time He’s allowed you to stop and spend with Him.