Slow down, I can’t keep up!
Have you ever heard that plea before?
I sure have. Especially from my four-year-old, who always wants to be sure I am hearing what he’s telling me (and believe me, he has a lot to say).
Sometimes the problem is just that I have longer legs than my kids. But more often it’s about my pace. I tend to take life at a speed that feels overwhelming to the people around me and, when I’m honest, to myself some days.
I have a lot of respect for Mark Yaconelli’s work through the years on teenagers and spiritual disciplines. I always use his book Downtime: Helping Teenagers Pray when I teach courses on engaging youth in spiritual disciplines. One of the most memorable stories for me is about the “Slow Club” started by Yaconelli’s son Joseph. He writes:
When [Joseph] was four years old, he was no longer willing to be hustled to preschool and hurried along on errands. One morning Joseph announced he was starting a new organization called “Slow Club,” in which he would serve as president. The rules of the club were simple: No running and no hurrying. Unfortunately, neither his parents nor his brother could commit to these regulations, so for the next year Joseph was the only member of his club. Each morning, he’d stroll to school at his natural pace. If I tried to pull him along or anxiously urge him to “hurry it up!” he’d respond calmly, “I’m president of Slow Club, Dad. I don’t hurry.”
Mark goes on to share about the things Joseph noticed that no one else did. This became a gift to anyone who would receive it, though he had few takers. Then Mark suggests to us:
Like Joseph, those of us who minister among young people seek to be members of Slow Club. We invite youth to attend to their lives; we encourage them not to overlook the signs of God’s presence. Every time we’re among youth, we look and listen with slow eyes and ears. We listen for the deep sounds of God. We look patiently for the little signs of grace. We cultivate wonder. Like Joseph, we walk beside them saying, “What do you notice? What do you see? How is God present in this moment?” [[Mark Yaconelli, Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus, 197-199.]]
I love this reminder. But it’s a real challenge for me. I worry that if Margaret Feinberg might challenge us to give up prayer for Lent, Mark might just invite us to give up speed. I worry because like most discipleship, this is hard.
Despite my worry, I think I’m okay with that. I know my son will be.
Please join us on Tuesday 1/22 from 1:00-1:20 pm Pacific to watch the free live webcast interview with Margaret Feinberg, and on Wednesday 1/23 from 11:00- 11:30 am Pacific for this webcast with Mark Yaconelli! Check back on the blog for links to the live broadcasts.
PS: If you have time for a longer version of the slow club story, here’s a 10-minute account by Mark at a 2008 National Youth Workers Convention.