>My sister has just recently given birth to her first child. I admit that nearly the first words out of my mouth were: “Where are the pictures? Has she updated her Facebook page?” I admit to being an information junkie, and my TV is also connected to my computer so I can check IMDB and Google and Wikipedia while watching a movie or documentary to check up on more facts – what other film has the actress been in? What is the GDP of Indonesia? My family tends to leave me alone during these times. I find I am less than unique in this addiction. My colleagues frequently chide me for not having either an iPhone or a Blackberry, and the fact that I do not Twitter makes me look like someone with “things to hide” from my more connected friends.
The fact that we want things now is really not new, after all Adam and Eve wanted the apple now, not later…
Serpent: Where u at?
Serpent: Wanna get some appels? [sic]
Eve: Nah. Big Man says No-no.
Serpent: Natch. But why make them so red and delish. Here’s a pic.
Eve: Lookin good.
Serpent: How about it then?
Eve: Gotta talk to BF
Serpent: Bring him too!
Eve: OK. SYL.
Serpent: 7 by the tree.
And we all know where that got us. We want instant gratification. We want instant results. We want immediate reduction in discomfort. We are, all of us, “Immediatists”.
It seems the idea of spending time watching a sunset or staring at a blank wall doing Centering Prayer is nonsense if not downright madness. Imagine how many chores could’ve gotten done in that time! But the truth is that the very best stuff takes time to mature. Everything form thoughts, to works of art, to food preparation, to eating a meal together, is better if not rushed. We want immediate solutions to problems which came about in the first place because we rushed into solving the problems that preceded the current one.
One thing is the result of this Immediatist faith: the breaking apart, the incompleteness, of our lives in the deepest sense. In a strange sense, the rapid multiplication of instant “solutions” actually leads to a deep spiritual paralysis.
Against all this you have the methods and process of the Church. We got our Episcopal liturgy which can only move so fast (no matter how short the sermon) – before you can get to the Eucharist. We also got the church liturgical calendar which seems to stretch interminably in Advent and Lent. We also have the nearly 1500 of monastic formation which demands a slow, almost plodding, approach. It takes a year to even begin as a Novice. It take two more to begin the process of vows. It takes 6 or 7 years to “graduate”, to take Final Vows. WHo wants to hand around for 7 years? And not even get an MDiv out of it?
Over and over again I have seen people come to me for spiritual direction or to one of my lectio retreats, who almost physically vibrated with anxiety (which is a St. Vitu’s Dance of Immediatists). Over and over they had to find a way to slow down, to surrender to a more organic pace. To put up with psalms being recited slowly.
In monastic life, in the life of the Church, agitation is a disease. Chomping at the bit to jump at the next thing, without properly stopping before to pray for assitance from God and upon completion for a prayer of thanksgiving is like trying to hammer cold iron: a lot of noise and effort, not much result.
Anyone who takes some serious spiritual work learns first of all to move at the “speed of God.” This does not mean some artificial speed. In fact it is the opposite of all our artificial speeds. Sometimes the work is frenetic, sometimes the work is measured and slow. The speed of it is based on the intrinsic properties of the work that God has set before us. It comes from nowhere else.
Monastic life treasures patience. Wait for things to evolve. Wait longer than you think you can wait, and the wait a little longer. The novice is usually wanting to move on – but move on to where? There is nothing that a senior knows or does which the novice is forbidden. The very act of waiting is formation. The need to move ahead and get to Vows and so on tells most Formation Masters that the Novice should be made to wait a little longer.
The same thing with our Sunday services. It has little to do with the type of music (classical or contemporary), or the amount of charismatic experiences we have. The order of the service ensures that there are enough pauses and enough slow moments for every person to take a deep breath and bask in adoration of God.
So, begin practicing a little more patience. Look for opportunities to be slowed down or even delayed. Look for those moments when life conspires to slow you down. Those are epiphanies – and only the patient will know God.