When we lose sight of things, particularly when we lose sight of things that our parents or grandparents held onto securely, we look back on them and often say, "we have lost the art of _______". Why do we say that? How have we come to understand things of the past as art forms? It seems to be a matter of perspective. We have not lost the art, we have simply lost the discipline in seeing it as art.
Lately, I have come to understand that I have lost the discipline of seeing life more slowly. It is no secret that our society is fast-paced. We have become a microwave nation so to speak. There is no time for slow cookers here. Little Caesar's actually displays our culture in a hyperbolic yet accurate manner. We are impatient people and that is because we value ourselves over others. Take a moment to watch this commercial.
Now do not get me wrong, I laugh at this commercial uncontrollably, my family can vouch for that, but this is so true of many people today. What I have come to understand about this lack of patience is that we have "lost an art".
WE HAVE LOST THE ART OF SLOWING DOWN.
Our perspective is a mess. Personally, I know that I focus far too much on myself and not nearly enough on others. And that is such a shame! I do love people but it can be so easy to act like the man in that commercial: drive in somewhere, horn blaring, scream to a halt, sprint inside, cut the line, grab MY order, sprint back out, and peel away. Wow! What selfishness I can display. Blatant disregard for the safety, convenience, and well-being of others. And it leaves no room for the opinions, ideas, or feelings of others. The best thing about perspective, it is a behavior that can be changed.
This past month or so, I have found myself in that selfish rut. Looking out for "priority number one" consumed me. Caught up in tasks and doing and serving and accomplishing and achieving, I have gotten nowhere - literally! People have not been a priority to me. While I have justified my attitudes by saying, I was not hurting anyone, or doing things wrongly, I realized my perspective was affecting my priorities. By focusing on myself, I was leaving others out. By trying to outdo myself and comparing myself to others, I have not included anyone in this journey well. I may not have hurt anyone, but I am also not helping anyone. God gives us ministries and visions so that we might serve and interact and work with others. He allows us the opportunities to mutually learn from and to teach those we encounter.
I sought to remedy this situation. It has been on my heart for some time now that I would really like to have a weekend prayer retreat. Just being alone for a weekend - unplugged, disconnected, and isolated from everything except God and myself seems beneficial. However, for various reasons, I have not been able to make this personal retreat happen. Instead, I have been focusing on what I would use that time for. Here is what I imagined:
- Undistracted time would allow me to dig deeper into the Word exploring what God has for me.
- Daily reminding myself of God's call, His purpose, and His plan would be fortification of the foundation for this journey I am currently on.
- Being in the quiet would provide uninterrupted conversations with my God. He knows what is on my heart already but there is something about praying it that makes it more real to me.
- Growing my patience; trusting that God's timing is perfect and purposed would influence my perspective.
- Challenging my perspective would mean deepening my humility.
- Re-prioritizing to include others would lessen the stress on myself while giving those partnering with me a more hands on involvement. This would help everyone involved to have a fuller and richer sense of ownership in this ministry.
Since it is not currently possible for me to take that retreat I have made an alternate plan. Last night I took an hour and spent time in my bedroom. I left my phone downstairs. I cleaned the piles of clothes and books off of my bed. I found my prayer journal and my pen and I just sat quietly for a little while. Then I spent time journaling. Through that quiet hour alone, God reminded me of some things and showed me how I was acting and thinking. He revealed to me, as He has many times in the past, that I was not asking for help. Seeking the service of others has never really been something I have been very good at. Perfectionistic tendencies hinder my ability as a team player on many projects. Throwing other people into the mix, messes up MY vision and ideas; it multiplies the possibility of making a mistake; it allows for variables that the end result will not be what I had planned. Then that still small voice reminds me - None of it is MINE!
It has been said to me over and over again by numerous people that pre-field ministry is designed to help prepare us for the field. People have also told me that the lessons I will learn during pre-field are invaluable. God works in His timing which is dependent on me learning what He wants me to know before He sends me out. Sometimes I am a slow learner. Many times I do not realize that I am a slow learner though and I get frustrated at being "stuck" but when I realize it is because I am missing something important, I pick things up quickly. More and more I am realizing this time of ministry is prepping and equipping me for what is to come.