Recently I read an article that said people who walk faster tend to live longer. This is good news as I tend to walk fast. I was reminded of this when I was at a meeting with a friend at the botanical gardens (Singapore) recently and he said, “Slow down, don’t walk like a Singaporean. Walk like a Malaysian. Take time to take in the surroundings.” (My friend is a Singaporean.) Well, I am not sure that Singaporeans walk faster than Malaysians but the point was taken. I took a deep breath, slowed down, and rediscovered the beauty of the botanical gardens. There is so much you miss when you rush.
I have also been learning to walk slower from my parents — my mum and Bernice’s parents. They are in their eighties and are walking much slower now. If I am to walk with them, then I have to walk slower. I don’t think they will be walking at my pace again even if they wanted to. But I can walk at their pace. Indeed I have to if I am to journey with them, literally and metaphorically. Growing old is not for wimps. We are seeing first hand the physical, emotional and spiritual challenges at this stage of life. Bernice and I are no heroes but we are committed to loving our parents as best we can. We are learning what that means. The lessons have not always been easy. For me, it has included learning to walk slower.
Learning to walk slower has also helped me to understand God’s love better. Yesterday I was preaching in Christ Church, Ayer Itam. I was preaching on one of my favourite passages, Jesus and His encounter with the two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13–35). I imagine the two disciples walking slowly, weighed down with grief. Jesus comes and walks alongside them, walking at their pace. He doesn’t walk ahead and expect them to keep up. He walks at their pace. He also accommodates Himself to their pace of spiritual understanding.
The two disciples were “foolish” and “slow of heart” (Luke 24:45). Jesus chided them and taught them. But He didn’t write them off. He walked at their pace of spiritual understanding until their “ah-ha” moment (Luke 24:31). Jesus shows us that if you love someone you walk at their pace and He expects us to follow. We are not surprised then that when Paul expounds on love in 1 Corinthians 13, the first thing he tells us about love is that love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4).
I preached from 1 Corinthians 13 at a wedding this past Saturday. It is tough to preach on 1 Corinthians especially with Bernice in the congregation. As I preached I was reminded afresh of how far short I fell of the ideals I was expounding, especially the parts that said love “is not easily angered” (1 Corinthians 13:5) and that love is “patient.” I hope I am not fooling myself when I say I am much better now than I was ten years ago. I need to be. Patience is a key virtue for those who have grown up. Babies have no patience. If they are hungry they cry until they get their milk. Adults have learnt to postpone gratification when needed. Adults know what it means to be patient.
The call to walk slowly is totally countercultural in a day and age that worships speed and efficiency. But to love someone is to walk alongside them. It helps to remember that we love because God loved us first (1 John 4:19). If God had not chosen to walk with us and show us the way home we would have been lost. Now, when we choose to walk with people, we are merely passing it forward. Followers of Jesus are people called to a life of agape love. That includes choosing to walk with people at their pace. And different people are slow in different ways. Just as each of us is foolish and slow of heart in our own ways. But if we love someone we will walk with them.
There is another pay off to walking slowly. A God who took His time in sending His Messiah after the sin of Adam and Eve, a God who speaks in a still small voice, is neither fast nor loud. When we choose to walk slower we may find that we are walking at God’s pace. Suddenly we are more aware of His presence, more in touch with His voice and His wisdom. Silly as it may seem, many of us are walking ahead of the Lord. We are marching more to the beat of the spirit of the age than to His beat. And we wonder why we are often lost and confused.
So many reasons to learn to walk slower.