Recently I have been pondering about pace. Are we living and working at a pace that allows us to be present to one another, to really live rather than just merely exist? Do we even have a choice in the matter?
Growing up in super fast-paced Singapore, I imbibed an anxiety about falling behind. I remember hearing stories about how important it was to get ahead of one's peers, and how accomplished so-and-so was because they managed to graduate with a bachelor's degree AND a masters degree all within 4 years.
When I finished my GCE 'A' levels exam, my classmates were figuring out how many advanced credits they could qualify for when they went to university so that they could finish a 4 year overseas bachelor degree in 3 years or less if they took summer classes.
I always used to wonder - where are we rushing to?
What I didn't expect was that the need for speed was just as present in the world of pastoral ministry. We still had KPIs (key performance indicators) to meet and anxiety about not attracting enough people to our programs and events. We wanted to churn out retreats and pop out communities so that people's lives could be changed and encounter God.
But in the process, I found myself and other leaders burning out because we had no time to BE. No time to connect deeply with God, with our loved ones, much less with our inner selves. We ran a good game on the surface but our inner lives were sterile and fragmented. As a result, our efforts hardly ever bore deep or lasting spiritual fruit. And oftentimes our lack of emotional, mental and spiritual health inflicted more hurt on others than any healing we could try to bring.
Eventually I asked myself, "What's stopping me from slowing down?"
This wasn't the kind of life I wanted to live. I wanted to live authentically and I wanted to live an earthly life that I would be happy to return to God from. So I learned to slow down first of all by saying "no" to new requests, and later I upped the ante by learning to leave commitments I had previously made that no longer aligned with where I was in my life.
Life is dynamic and fluid, and I realised that what I spend my time and energy on needs to honour the seasons of my life too.
Our friends who live in the northern hemisphere have entered the season of Autumn or Fall when the leaves change colours and fall to the ground. I have been seeing this quote pop up repeatedly on social media: