What really hit home for me was a story he shares about rushing through bedtime stories with his son, skipping pages in The Cat in the Hat in order to get through that moment and onto other things. He also speaks to how busy kids are with homework and extra-curricular activities, and hints at the need for parents to help lead their kids to slow down.
I was convicted by his story of rushing through bedtime stories, for I too have found myself hurrying through time with kids, rushing towards bedtime, missing out on what could and should be one of the best times of my day. While the TED Talk was not a specifically Christian message, the Bible also teaches that there is much to be gained by intentionally fighting the culture of busyness, for ourselves and for our families. Here are just two examples:
- In Mark 6:31, Jesus encourages His disciples to go to a quiet place and get some rest. And of course, Jesus Himself often withdrew to spend some quiet time with God.
- Luke 10:38-42 tells the story of Mary and Martha, where Martha is working hard and is angry with her sister for not helping her in the kitchen. Jesus commended Mary for choosing “what is better” in simply being with Jesus.
When we choose to slow down, we communicate many things to our children - that Jesus is better than all the things we chase after in our busyness, that they are more valuable to us than our work or our to do lists, and that our value does not come from what we produce or what we do, but from knowing and being known by God through Jesus Christ.
In addition, our kids don’t open up on schedule. It’s rare that a parent can plan when a deep conversation will happen with their son or daughter, or that a child opens up to a parent on demand. Most often, true heart-level conversations happen during an extended time of togetherness.
With all that in mind, I’d like to make a few suggestions to help us slow down.
- Choose to be in the moment. So often when I’m with my kids, I find myself thinking about the next thing, or the task that’s still waiting to be completed, rather than being in the moment. The problem is I can’t do anything about what’s next, and by thinking about it I’m robbing myself of fully enjoying the moment in front of me! As Jesus said, “tomorrow has enough worry of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
- Choose a spot to let the work day go. For those of you that work outside the home, you have a built-in time to let go of the day’s stress and look forward to being present at home. Unfortunately, we often spend that commute home continuing to think and work on those problems, rather than leaving them for the next day. My pastor Matt Carter once gave some good advice, to pick a point on the way home where you commit to leave the work day behind, trusting it to God. It will be there to pick back up tomorrow.
- Make cell phone free times and places. Yes, the devices that we call phones (that are really more like computers than phones) are amazing. They also often are the main culprits for stealing us away for the moment. Consider making times or places in your home that are cell phone free. Unless you are a surgeon on call, that email, text, or call can probably wait. Dinnertime is a great first step here - have everyone set their cell phones down away from the table before starting the meal. You might be surprised at how free you feel, and start leaving your cell phone down for longer and longer periods.
- Schedule free time. I know that the idea of scheduling free time can feel like a contradiction. However, many of us have so many different commitments and groups of friends that if we don’t block off time to rest, we will commit ourselves to the brim. I know of one family in our church that blocks off one weekend a month as a family weekend. They turn down any formal commitments for that weekend, saying that they are busy - and they are! They are busy spending time as a family. Date nights with a spouse, “special times” with one parent and one child, and family days together are all worth putting on your calendar.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on ways you can slow down. As a first step, find some time this week to slow down with your spouse, your family, or a close friend to talk about the benefits of slowing down, and how you can apply this in your family.