Our culture doesn’t leave a lot of room for choosing to do things slowly. Actions that are intentionally less efficient, less attractive, less relevant, and less pragmatic in your life will bring about a myriad of dissenting voices and counsel to change, ”Don’t you know that to be good and right, all of your choices must be based on the latest trend, the most effective methods, and the smartest strategy?” It’s a never-ending barrage of “keeping up with the Jones’” not just in material possessions but in the ways we live our lives.
This way of approaching life can, and usually does, end in burnout, depression, and painful experiences. For all of the promises to find enlightenment, the flash and bang of super-efficiency denies two major truths:
You are human and have limitations
The most efficient ways of living, working, and functioning might work for a short period of time, but in the long run, you cannot sustain the pace of life that is expected from you. No amount of energy drink or fad detox diets will give you enough energy to please the world around you and there will always be more expected of you if you remain committed to the path of super-efficiency.
This might sound like bad news to begin with, but it is actually exceedingly good. Your limits in work, life, parenting, marriage, and so forth, will ultimately lead you, not away from God, but to him. You need to be lead to him because you have very real limits and are “prone to wander,” as the hymn writer says.
In Australia, there are huge (and I mean huge) cattle stations. The biggest is Anna Creek Station in my home state of South Australia. At almost two million square acres, it’s bigger than the country of Israel and is seven times bigger than the biggest cattle station in Texas. Anna Creek, and other big Australian cattle stations, don’t rely on fences to keep the cattle from running off; in fact there are large areas of the station that don’t have a fence as far as the eye can see. This is because although cattle are prone to wander wherever they please, they won’t generally travel more than three days from water. The cattle are bound through an internal, invisible fence to their water source.
So it must also be with Christians. We need to be bound to God, our living water and daily bread. God set us in a place of freedom, but remains the only true source of life for his people. Super-efficiency would say you can live free, just apply the best methods of hydration and you’ll be fine. But God knows better, you still need water, you still need him. He calls us to depend, not on life-hacks for our health, but on him and him alone.
God works in ways contrary to the world around us
It is God’s grace to show us that he is different than us and that his ways are greater than our ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9) If we were given the task of redeeming the world with unlimited resources and power, our plan would look quite different from the way God designed things to work. We would be all about a massive display of our unlimited power and might to either crush our enemies or scare them into obedience. But that is not the way the Lord chose. He instead sent himself in the weakness and frailty of human infancy to nobody parents in a nowhere town; choosing to put aside his heavenly attributes so he could be fully and totally human. And from that apparently weakened state, he ministered to and loved us, his enemies.
In the late 1970s, a book called, Three Mile an Hour God, was published. Within it, the author wrestled with the fact that the speed of God was right around three miles an hour because that is about how fast humans walk. Jesus walked from town to town preaching the gospel and ministering to lost people by walking there.
While we’re obsessed with the desire for super-efficiency and speeding along with everyone else, we zoom right past Jesus as we move on to the next big thing. Meanwhile, he walks contently at his pace, teaching, healing, and sharing wisdom that we’re too busy to hear.
While the world around us is fast and getting faster, we, in the knowledge that our God chooses slowness, weakness, and quiet in the midst of noise should take note of our lives and the priorities of them. My strongly suggested energy priority list is:
This is a good reference for us and a helpful matrix to run our lives, schedules, and mental states through on a regular basis. For some of us it might be worth tattooing on our forearms so we don’t forget.
All kidding aside, living this way sets our values on things that set us apart and show our deep trust and reliance on God for our health, provision, and joy.
You might be thinking I’m still not convinced. Well, living true to the priorities above will grow our faith and it’s important to remember that great faith is never looked at negatively in the scriptures, so what are you afraid of?
Once you can answer that question, then you can begin to fully embrace God’s good ways for your life.