I just had my oldest son’s four children over for a “sleepover at Grandpa’s house.” Although it was less than 24 hours together (not a big deal, right?), it was a wonderful and satisfying 24 hours, huddled up with my grandchildren on a cold Saturday night. We made s’mores over a roaring fire in the fire pit, tried to figure out how to use my grandson’s new telescope to get close-ups of the moon, ate a lot of sugary food, watched movies, read books at bedtime. Grandpa stuff.
Tomorrow morning I re-enter my “real life”—papers to grade, courses to teach, students to advise, music lessons to give, rehearsals to lead. This particular week is especially full, as I play trumpet in the pit orchestra for my university’s production of Bye Bye, Birdie, a seven-performance run that will be layered on top of my already full-time teaching schedule. The next eight days will fly by, crammed full with lots of work-related activities, most of which I thoroughly enjoy. But the pace will feel, borrowing a musical term, Presto. Very fast. Hard to keep up with.
Baking cinnamon rolls and preparing bacon this morning was slow. Largo. Methodical. Lazily fun. Caring for the needs of four little people—I cut a rubber band out of my granddaughter’s thick pony tail, mediated a few sibling squabbles, picked corn off the floor, washed an inordinate number of drinking glasses—felt slow, undriven, non-missional, peaceful.
At some point this coming week, I have no doubt I will glance at my watch and be shocked at how little time I have left to get ready for the next class, event, or rehearsal. But this morning I glanced at my watch and was surprised at how little time had passed between getting up and pulling the rolls out of the oven. I was in slo-mo with my grandchildren and, while tiring in its own way, found it to be oddly reassuring and centering.
My wife commented, “having the grandkids over felt so, well, normal.”
While I can’t exactly explain that, I certainly agree with it. And I know that time slowed down for me with this little grandkids sleepover.
One of the features of Jesus’ life that has always intrigued me is how settled he seemed to be in his pace of life. He had his share of long, exhausting days, where he preached, walked, healed, listened, intervened. But he never seemed in a hurry, frantic, or stressed out about getting down to #7 on the to-do list. He was very good at just being with people and having an uncanny sense of when it was time to move on to the next thing, without much concern about letting people down, hitting a deadline, or keeping anyone but his Father happy. How did he do that?
My outer life and, perhaps more importantly, my inner life is noisy. Full. Distracted. Packed with decisions to make, events to plan, people to see, schedules to keep. On the inside, I am often agitated and preoccupied, riddling out the next internal negotiation of my time and energy, just trying to stay ahead of the wave.
I’ve written elsewhere about the need for restoration and rest, and I do take intentional steps to build those things into my life. But the fast-paced noise of daily life overtakes me often, and its speedometer seems to hum along at about 75 mph. Until I have a sleepover with my grandkids. Cook a meal for my wife. Type a long email to a friend. Listen to an entire album without interruption. Stare at a tree from my front porch as a breeze gently disturbs the leaves. Hear the hawk in my neighborhood, just above the background traffic noise.
What are your “and time slows down” moments? Those times when life is savored and lived fully in the moment, relatively free of pressure? I’m not talking here about self-care (I think this term is way over-rated and runs dangerously close to self-preservation or just plain ol’ self-centeredness). I’m talking about self-awareness and personal presence. I’m not really talking about balance (as in life-work balance), although this may be part of it. And please don’t read this as an exhortation to just “slow down!” I’m not even sure what that means from situation to situation. No, this is more an awareness of those things that cause time to slow down. Where is there space in your life and soul to permit the slow-down that comes with the kinds of activities or experiences I’ve mentioned here?
I know I desperately need to treasure, honor, and savor those times. The grandiosity of concerts, the fulfillment of finished work projects, the pressure of deadlines will all be there. Cutting rubber bands out of pony tails was, for me this time, right now. And, in hindsight, I could have missed it.
Time will reliably speed back up to its normal frenetic pace (at least for most of us). But, for today, time slowed down.