React – Reflect – Respond in a “Fast Forward” World

Our recent City Women lunch, generously hosted by Browne Jacobson, focused on speed.  After her father’s death last year, Sarah recognised that she couldn’t live in “Fast Forward” – and asked herself the question of why we even collude in living in “Fast Forward”.  We lead busy lives and need to plan and organise effectively: it can be easy to feel driven by the diary and objectives, this week, this month, this year.  What’s our usual pace of life, on the scale of SLOW – MEDIUM – FAST – SUPER-FAST – TURBO-CHARGED?!  And how much do we vary our speed, during the day or during the week?

Rev Dr John Swinton challenges us on this (from his article in the Church Times on 5 April 2019):

In the 1960s, a Japanese Theologian, Kosuke Koyama, wrote a book, Three Mile and Hour God (SCM Press).  He noticed that the average speed that human beings walk at is three miles per hour.  Jesus, who is God, walked at three miles per hour…  When you begin to think about that, it challenges those who think that God is only interested in speed, productivity and efficiency…I spoke to one of my colleagues, who works in a busy hospital, about the three-mile-an-hour God.  He said:  “This places means that I have to move at nine miles an hour!” I said to him, “Well, who are you following?” If Jesus is walking at three miles an hour, and you’re walking at nine miles an hour, who is following whom?  In a culture of speed, we forget that love takes time, that love is slow.”

Sometimes it’s important to listen to ourselves – and even to our own disproportionate reactions! – if we are to engage fully with life, head and heart.  A few days after her father’s funeral, someone commented to Sarah that it had been a lovely service:  “I went to another funeral that the same vicar took the next day: he always manages to make each service so personal”.  Sarah was surprised that wasn’t easily able simply to affirm the kind words about the service and the vicar.  Rather (whilst mumbling something in response!) a voice screamed inside her head, saying, “There is only one funeral in the whole wide world that matters just now, and that’s my dad’s!”.  The “toddler tantrum” strength of this heart-level response was a surprise, but needed to be listened to!  Personally and professionally, we may be very used to listening to others, but the key learning that day was the importance to giving time listen to yourself, to notice and integrate your own reactions. 

Whatever the “head-level”, whatever the “head-lines” of life, it’s vital to give space to the “heart-level”, the “heart-beat” of life – which may be more unpredicatable, more uncomfortable, leaving you feeling scrambled or knocked off your feet.  It’s vitally important: it takes you deeper – and it needs to be noticed.

Endings and beginnings come hand in hand: the end of one chapter signals the beginning of a new one.  And the words from Isaiah 43:19 speak into a time of change:

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Do we do more than simply see?  It’s too easy to say “I see” and only to skate the surface.  What does it take to go deeper – to notice, to discern, to give attention, to perceive? 

When we are living from that deeper place, where we are perceiving the multi-levelled fabric of life, we are more likely to make creative connections.  When we simply react in an instant, we can be survival-orientated and often defensive: we may miss so much, and so mis-cue.  The challenge is to reflect – to draw breath – to notice for a moment.  Then we can respond from a deeper place, integrating head and heart.  Even in the midst of busy working day, can we rise to the challenge to draw breath, to notice, to perceive, before responding – and to defend that important moment for reflection, when we need to?

Here’s a blessing, to take us forwards at human speed:

Bless us,

in our work and our life,

to take time and space

to integrate head and heart,

to embrace love and loss,

to balance work and play,

so that we go deeper than merely seeing,

perceiving a fuller picture,

so that we go deeper than merely reacting,

allowing time for a more creative response.

In a world that prioritises speed and productivity,

help us to dare sometimes to live slowly,

remembering that love takes times.

If you’d like to meet up to talk about this, do get in touch with Sarah Thorpe and 0798 224 8949.

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