My Grandpa George used to call me a little mess maker. I wasn’t allowed to help Grandma Nelle in the kitchen because I couldn’t do anything without making a huge mess.
Honestly, that hasn’t changed much. I’m still pretty much a disaster in the kitchen, mainly because I hate to cook. So, I do everything as quickly as possible, which is why my family is very familiar with the sound of the smoke detector and the remnants of a meal pretty much everywhere.
I’ve always tackled life at a hurried pace. I don’t really know why, except for my constant battle with impatience. It’s why I don’t like cooking, primping, or shopping. And I’m not much into details–they are far too time consuming. I prefer the big picture, the summary, and the quickest route.
Unfortunately, this constant rush also makes me quick to speak and slow to listen–the exact opposite of what God calls us to be. It causes me to say things I shouldn’t and make hasty decisions I later regret. That attitude spills right over into my relationship with God.
But lately I keep hearing the Lord say, “Be still. Slow down. Just listen.” Through the words of my pastor and my personal quiet time, God keeps reminding me that being led by the Spirit requires taking the time to be still and listen.
Challenges to Growth
A couple weeks ago I asked the ladies in my Facebook group, Growing Your Faith, what their biggest challenge to consistent Bible study was. The top two responses were finding time and staying focused.
I asked the Lord to show me how I could help with those two issues. I know how to teach good study habits or principles for interpretation, but those were not their primary concerns.
As I was praying over the situation, I was reminded of my many years in the classroom with students who struggled to have time for good study habits or found it challenging to stay focused in class.
Many times in the past I have reminded students that screen time and technology would drain more of their time than they realized. In addition, the constant bits of information their brains have to process from constant scrolling or clicking make it difficult to stay focused on one thing for more than a few seconds.
I realized that even as adults, we do the same thing. Our time on social media or Pinterest or Amazon or YouTube drains more of our time than we realize. And our brains are so accustomed to processing new information every few seconds that we no longer know how to get still and stay focused on one thing–like Bible study.
The 7-Day Unplug Challenge
So, I challenged my Facebook group to unplug for seven days. I suggested that we delete our social media apps from our phones for one week, turn off the television, and give our minds a rest.
The point was to help those sisters who were struggling to find the time for Bible study or to stay focused as they studied. But God did a mighty work in me.
Over the past few months, the Lord has already been calling me to linger with Him each morning in my quiet time, and I have. But once I got up from there to start my day, it was still full speed ahead. By midmorning I had already forgotten what God had spoken to me earlier.
The problem with that attitude of morning stillness and rest-of-the-day hustle is that we need to be led by the Holy Spirit all day long! How can we hear His voice, stay in His will, and follow His lead to minister to others if we don’t don’t slow down and listen?
So, what I planned as a time to help other women overcome their challenges to Bible study, God has used to teach me how to slow down, listen, and follow His lead.
It took a few days, but I have slowed my pace and begun to be more intentional and present in the moment. I now have much more time to read, have conversations, and enjoy the relationships in my life. Slowing down has allowed me to focus more on God and others.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry…”James 1:19, NIV
I no longer feel that a phone call is an interruption or an encounter at the grocery store is happenstance. When we get still we actually can see what is going on around us and how the Lord is orchestrating and manipulating time, space, and people for His purposes (as my pastor recently shared).
If you know me personally, you may have trouble believing this one, but I have actually become quieter and more intentional about my words. Rather than listening just enough to be able to respond, I have been more focused on hearing what others are saying.
“…a time to be silent and a time to speak…”Ecclesiastes 3:7b
I feel closer to my family because I have been more focused on them and what they have to say. My conversations have involved less talking and more listening. And I am much more in tune with what the Spirit is saying throughout the day and not just in my morning quiet time.
Following the Spirit
As I have slowed my pace and quieted my soul, I have also begun to sense God’s leading in several areas. I have been led to simplify my schedule, clean out my inbox, pare down my closet, and get rid of any hindrances to Kingdom work.
This past week I was led to minister to a family member who was struggling with some things, simply because I was more tuned in to the mission of God and not just my own little world.
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”Galatians 5:25
All this has made me wonder just how many opportunities I have missed in the past because I have lived at such a break-neck speed. How much time have I wasted scrolling on social media that could have been spent seeking God and growing my faith?
How many good books have I not learned from because I was busy watching Netflix? How much have I missed in the Word because my mind couldn’t slow down enough to engage with the text?
How much money have I wasted because I didn’t slow down and think about the true value of my purchases? How many relationships have I not nurtured because I was too busy focused on the next thing on my to-do list?
“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”Ephesians 5:15-16
I probably won’t solve world peace because I took a 7-day break from screens. And my kitchen skills may not improve. But I can definitely say my life is better for it.
I’m thankful for technology and the opportunities it provides to connect with people all over the world and share God’s truth.
But all things need a limit.
Do you need to slow down, be still, and listen to the promptings of the Spirit? Unplug from all the information around you and be still in the presence of the Lord. You may just be surprised at what God does.