We have to slow down to catch up with God. Matt Canlis
We watched the film Godspeed in our Sunday school class a few weeks ago. It appealed to me at first because it was filmed in Scotland. Y'all know I love accents and things from "across the pond"! I couldn't wait to hear lots of Scottish people talking about their lives so I was very excited to see a burly red headed man in a kilt on the screen at the beginning of the film. However, it didn't take too long for my interest in the accents and Scottish landscapes to decline, because what they were saying, the experiences and feelings they were sharing in the film, were so much more captivating.
In case you don't have 40 minutes to pause and watch the film (although I highly recommend you do so), here is my summary: Urged on by some wisdom shared by Eugene Peterson, pastor Matt Canlis moves with his wife and family to Scotland to pursue the life God has called them to. It is in Scotland, that the Lord slows them down and shows them what it takes to form real relationships, what it takes to be really known. Matt says it's like living in a fishbowl which is how Christ lived. In the little fishbowl of Galilee, where everyone knew Him and His family and His extended family, and He knew everyone else like that too.
I didn't make any comments when the video ended and a group discussion began. I was thinking too hard. Thinking about Jesus and how He lived. Thinking about how I have followed Him for what feels like my entire life, but, like Matt says, "I was centuries away and miles away from what Jesus did what I was supposed to be doing".
Godspeed. That's a word or phrase that isn't commonly used in today's world. Funny enough, it jumped into my vocabulary after B was born because there's a Dixie Chicks song called Godspeed that I sing to him as a lullaby! But before that, I'm not sure if that word ever crossed my lips. I'm guessing it isn't something you go around greeting people with. In the past, it was used to wish someone well on a journey or just in life. Kind of like saying, "hope God works it all out in your favor and that He is with you, protecting you"! But, like much of our old language, it has fallen away.
Let's think about it in another way...
God's speed. If you're like me, your first thought may have been, "not.fast.enough." Isn't that how most of us would describe the speed at which God works? When we think about the things we are hoping for, when things are dark, or when our longings seem like they could eat us whole, why doesn't God work faster? Theologian and scholar NT Wright brought up something in this video that really changed this pattern of thinking for me. He mentions a book called Three Mile an Hour God. He then began to reference the work, not one of his own, saying that the author discusses how Christ walked everywhere he went. His ministry was entirely on foot except for the few times it was on a fishing boat. And how fast do humans, even God with skin on, walk? On average, three miles an hour. Is this the pace at which God chooses to work in our lives?
Interestingly enough, just the week before watching this video I had gone on a walk with a friend. I arrived ready to WALK. It was a beautiful day and I was fired up to be outside and on the move. For whatever reason, she was not quite as motivated as me. I was like the first horse out from the gate, my pace quickly set me an entire strollers length ahead of her and I kept at it, turning my head to the side so I could hear what she was saying. "She will catch up, she will notice she is slowing me down, surely!" I kept thinking to myself. Well, Holy Spirit nudged me, and kept nudging me until I slowed my pace. He had been whispering, "it's about the friend not the exercise" for awhile, so I finally slowed down and walked with my friend. We were going less than 3mph (I know, I use an app that tells me!), but it was the exact right pace. I had to slow down to catch up with her, literally, and that's the exact same sentiment the film expresses about doing life at God's pace. We are going to have to slow down.
It was the well known author/pastor Eugene Peterson who first urged Matt to make this move. For Peterson, part of really being known is found in stability. NT Wright would agree with him. It was Wright that stated in the film, "we live in such a rootless world". In other words, we are moving around too often and too quickly to ever settle in and really know those around us. Maybe that's because being known has burned us in the past. Maybe, like many folks I know, you come from a small town where everyone knows everything about everybody and uses that knowledge as a weapon. Intimacy can certainly be frightening, but when we practice it like Jesus did, it is fruitful instead. That reminds me of something Father Giles, a monk from the local monastery, says in the film. He claimed that, "If you live in the same community with other people, you also have the benefit of seeing God's grace at work in them." That is the beauty of knowing and being known! Grace at work! Not weaponizing the weaknesses you see in others, but coming alongside them in their journey to become more like Christ. It was Father Giles who also wisely said, "Becoming known is a mutual process. It's giving and receiving, holding nothing back and not saying 'I refuse to accept this aspect of you.' "
"This way of living, of always being on the go is totally different than the way Jesus lived in the 1st Century and the way most humans have lived all of history" said Matt to the camera. He and his family had to leave America to slow down, to be known, to catch up with Jesus. I'm sure glad he did so that we would benefit from the lessons he learned, but for the rest of us, the ones not called to a different country, how do we implement slowing down and being known right where we are? In our very own fishbowls? I have been pondering this question for almost 2 weeks now and while I don't have the perfect solution, I have a few ideas that I keep coming back to.
1. Start Small. I am not moving to Scotland. I'd love love love to visit, but that isn't my fishbowl. So what is my fishbowl? My family. My friends. My church community. My neighbors. We just moved to a new neighborhood so I have a great opportunity to move at 3mph and visit the folks on my street. That's what Matt did! He went knocking on doors. Or I can invite friends over to walk (at whatever pace they are comfortable with) through the neighborhood. A fishbowl is SMALL. There isn't room for much. Which leads me to my next thought.
2. Be known in real life. As Matthew Darling and I discussed the video in the car on the way home, I asked him if he'd noticed what was missing from Matt's fishbowl. SOCIAL MEDIA, I answered before really giving my husband time to answer himself. Matt walked his parish. He knocked on doors and began conversations face to face. He admitted to being nervous and yeh, of course he was! How easy it is for us to feel as if we really know the friends we have online. We know what they ate for all three meals on Saturday, we know what their kids wore to church Sunday morning, we know what their travel plans are, but we absolutely don't know them. Social media is a false sense of being known. We only show others what we want them to see and the same goes for them. I am so done. I'll leave this post up for a week but after that, there will be no more social media for me. You can call, text, email, or come on a walk with me.
3. Learn to say no. Even to good things or things that use my talents. Business is an American idol that I don't want to bow down to anymore. I can't be busy and move at 3mph at the same time. Of course, life demands certain things and I don't plan on neglecting any of my repsonsibilities, but I don't have to take on extra! It's within my people pleasing personality type to say 'yes' all the time. But it's really in everyone's best interest for me to start saying 'no', so that I can slow down and be known. Not being busy, not being involved in everything offered to us is quite the counter cultural idea. But so is everything else about the way Jesus lived.
4. Listen more. Talk less. In the film, Peterson bluntly drops the statement, "No one in America gets listened to". Yup. Sounds about right. We are all sooooo busy declaring our uniqueness, our independence, our rights, that our voices drown one another out. Listening instead of talking is an act of selflessness. That's going to be a challenge for me. I'm a talker. But if I want people to feel known by me, I'm going to have to slow down and listen.
Part of saying no, of slowing down, of listening instead of talking, of spending more time knowing folks in real life, means letting go of Shalom Sisters. Moving to Scotland helped Matt's family rid themselves of the excess in their lives. Baggage, if you will. I want to do that too. I'm not sure if that will be forever or just for a while, but I know letting go of things will help me slow down.
Slowing down sounds nice. It sounds better than nice doesn't it? It sounds right. It sounds freeing. It kind of sounds slightly impossible too. But like Matt says in the film, "This is how Jesus changed the world and is still changing me". Slowly. Maybe even as slow as 3 miles an hour.
There is no place on this earth without potential for holiness. Or maybe potential for unearthing holiness right where we are with the people we are with.