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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Following Jesus in the slow lane

There is something sweet about walking with God at a slow, steady pace. One of the first things I experience at the beginning of a retreat is not culture shock -- I've usually prepared myself for more prayer and less cushy comfort. My big challenge is Speed Shock. My mind darts around reflexively wondering where the next demand on my time will come from. I flit. I wander. Eventually the flywheel slows, the static subsides; I take a deep breath and gradually clear mental ground for the Lord to pitch a tent.

I believe that one of the reasons I lack minute-to-minute consciousness of God in my daily life is that I force him to jump onto my speeding train. It's not my activity level. Heaven knows that I spend at least as much time in "idle" as I do in "overdrive". But my brain -- that's another matter.

Amy Welborn wrote about a retreat her family made at a Trappist monastery.
Despite the monks’ solicitude, one minor mishap seems to occur, without fail, every time newcomers attempt to participate in monastic prayer.

During the first exchange, and usually for several afterwards during prayer, one hears something like this:

Presiding monk: 'The Lord be with you.'

Non-monks: (without hesitation, almost before he finishes the “you”) 'And also with you.'

Two seconds pass.

Monks: 'And also with you.'

We wonder for a brief moment, what’s wrong with these guys? Why are they so slow on the draw? Then it occurs to us that perhaps something is wrong, but with us. We’re moved to ask, why are we in such a hurry? When we’re outside the monastery, why do we judge a Mass by it’s length? Why do I find myself tripping on the words of the Creed during a parish liturgy, racing to keep up with a congregation that recites it as if NASCAR points are at stake?

Why indeed? Why do I continually challenge myself to find a quicker route to my destination? Why do I keep looking at my watch in the Adoration Chapel? Why do I feel that even my prayer times need to be productive, as if I'm measuring grams of grace per minute?

I don't know how to do "slow yet steady" very well. But if I follow Jesus, I think I'll learn. He didn't even wear a watch.

1 comments:

Therese Z said...

That is an amazing quote you picked out. I tried waiting two seconds while reciting that exchange in my mind: nearly impossible!

At that rate, Mass would last two hours. A GOOD two hours, mind you, but what a change!

 

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