Slow Down, Stop, and Soak It Up

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1

For the past 6 years I’ve been granted the opportunity to work at a college that is consistently ranked in the top 15 most beautiful campuses in the country (Furman University). Then, of course, in the summer I’ve been able to spend some time as the minister at Camp Greystone. These are easily two of the most beautiful places that I know, and I get to actually work there! But here’s the think I’ve noticed over the course of 6 years. When I first arrived, I was awe-struck. I would stumble around campus noticing every little new flower, or stopping just to admire the lake and the bell tower. But after 6 years I’ve found myself starting to rush from place to place. My mind will be filled with what I need to accomplish and I won’t even realize that it’s springtime and the dogwoods are blooming. So now I have to consciously remind myself to slow down, stop and soak it up.

It’s incredibly easy to miss the big picture, isn’t it? We might focus in on our schedule for the day, or we might be thinking about that next thing we want to buy, or we might even just be feeling sorry for ourselves…and in the midst of it, we can miss the lessons that are all around us. We can miss the bigger picture. When Jesus was teaching his disciples, he often used the surrounding creation as illustration: a fig tree, a wheat field, or simply the soil by the side of a road. Creation has lessons for us if we’ll stop and pay attention to it.

Once Jesus told his disciples to look at the birds of the air and how they neither sow or reap, nor gather crops into barns, and yet God feeds them. And then he asks this beautiful question, “Are you not of more value than they?” And then he says, “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like on of these” (both from Matthew 6). When is the last time you stopped and looked at a bird? I mean really looked at one, and marveled at it? Or when is the last time you gazed with wonder at a flower?

You may not believe this now, but your life will get more complicated and more busy. It just will. You gain more responsibilities and more duties. You need to learn to pay attention, look around and be present in the moment. If you teach yourself to constantly escape to your iPhone now, do you think that impulse is going to magically get better? Annie Dillard, an author who wrote a whole book about observing one little creek, gives this piece of truth, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

If you are beginning to learn to speak the truth of the gospel to yourself on a daily basis, it’s going to take some time. Taking time to wonder and gaze at beauty will certainly help in that process and remind you of the bigger picture, namely that you belong to a God who created this earth. He is sovereign, good and on your side.