When Katy Butler’s first daughter, Evelyn, was born, she was shocked at how constant and consuming motherhood was. Evelyn was feisty, energetic, and NEVER napped, even as a baby! That’s when Katy decided that a “quiet time” wasn’t enough to feed her soul in this new season. She needed a life immersed in God. So she decided to write a devotional specifically for people with little margin in life – one that gave simple ways to move closer to God throughout the day, through the use of spiritual disciplines. One cross-country move, two kids, and three years later, Habits of the Heart was finally completed. Today she talks about one spiritual discipline that many of us need a bit of practice in…slowing down. Let’s welcome Katy to the farm’s front porch today…
W hen theologian Dallas Willard was asked to describe Jesus using one word, he chose “relaxed.”
Is it just me or is Willard’s answer a tad convicting?
I would use a variety of words to describe myself, but “relaxed” would not be at the top of that list.
Honestly, it wouldn’t even make the list.
God has a great sense of humor, because somehow I married the most unhurried person in the world.
I love my husband dearly, but he is so relaxed it makes me anxious. He eats slowly. He speaks slowly. He even drives slowly… Lord, help me! Whenever my anxiety prompts me to move him along, he calmly says, “What’s the rush?” This is his motto.
Maybe my husband has it right. When he is with someone, he is really with them. Even though I still get aggravated with his speed (or lack thereof), I have come to deeply love his approach to life. He has helped me slow down to enjoy many wonderful moments that I otherwise would have missed.
Our culture has trained us to hurry, and when we give in to haste, we miss opportunities of connection with God and others.
Our Creator didn’t intend for us to live this way.
So, for those of us racing through life, is it possible to truly become someone who is unhurried? Relaxed? Present with God and others?
Absolutely! But it requires the retraining of one’s heart.Many of us don’t think about training our hearts, but the truth is, we train them every day.
The apostle Paul tells us that our whole lives are a training of some sort.
Everything we do is training our hearts either toward God or away from Him.
When our hearts are conditioned to live life in God’s company and in obedience to His Word, we experience the greatest joy, peace, contentment and fulfillment possible.
Could slowing down be a spiritual discipline?
Spiritual disciplines are often thought of in the traditional sense—fasting, solitude, silence, etc. But spiritual disciplines can be anything that opens and changes our heart to become more like Jesus.
So how does slowing down help us become more like Jesus?
Just like any other relationship, slowing down helps us be present with others.
Letting go of the to-do list gives us space to listen, time to enjoy their presence, and capacity to deepen relationship.
When we intentionally discipline our bodies to slow down, we are actually habituating our hearts back toward our Creator.
How has your heart been trained to hurry?
Do you tend to rush through conversation?
Are you too busy to enjoy the simple pleasures of life—food, drink, rest, beauty? Do you tend to drive or walk quickly?
Is your typical day overscheduled?
Are you continually thinking about your to–do list?
The only way to live life with God is by first recognizing where we live apart from Him. This is where transformation happens.
I have by no means mastered the art of slowing down, but I have a few exercises to help move my heart in that direction. (Side note: For those who relate more with my husband, these exercises are applicable to you, too. Think of an area in life where you tend to hurry –work, children’s bedtimes, commutes, or some other obligation? I encourage you to continue reading with that particular area in mind.)
Here are a few exercises to help you slow down, resist hurry, and be present . . .
When my daughters are upset, I encourage them to take deep breaths while I explain that we cannot calm our hearts until we calm our bodies.
This is true for adults, too. Here is a simple way to slow down your body.
First, get into a comfortable position. Allow yourself to relax, noticing the areas in your body where you are holding tension.
Close your eyes and breathe in slowly, allowing air to fill your lungs completely.
As you inhale, thank God for the gift of life, and for His breath that gave life to all creation.
As you breathe out, imagine exhaling your stress, anxiety, and tension. Repeat this several times. I often do this exercise when I feel anxious or to calm my heart before I read Scripture.
Choose one way to resist unnecessary hurry today.
For example, drive in the slow lane, or sit and eat slowly, savoring each bite.
Or choose one item on your to–do list to let go today.
Ask the Lord to help you become aware of when you are going too fast.Choosing to slow down or simplify my agenda strengthens my trust in God. It reminds me that He is in control of my schedule, my day, and my life.
Too often we live our lives on autopilot—we are “there,” but not “present.”
When you find yourself distracted or daydreaming, use your five senses to pull yourself back to the present.
What do you see, smell, taste, or hear in this moment?
What sensations do you feel on your skin?
When I feel distracted or disconnected from my children, I engage my senses to help me slow down and be present.
I pull them onto my lap and touch their soft skin. I smell their hair. I look into their beautiful eyes; and I listen to their sweet little voices.
Our senses are wonderful gifts from God to enjoy each moment—even the moments that feel messy or mundane.
My prayer is that you will begin to slow down and see the work and beauty of God around you.
I pray you will view life as a gift to be enjoyed rather than a race to the finish line —
and that you will be present to love God and the people around you.
Katy Butler holds a Masters in Spiritual Formation and SoulCare from Talbot Seminary and is a certified Spiritual Director. She lives in Illinois with her husband, Stetson, and is a mother to two free-spirited daughters., Evelyn and Penelope.
Real change happens only when we train ourselves to be in the habit of exercising our hearts in the practice of godliness. The Bible says that training the body is of some value, but the most important thing we can do is to train our spirit. Habits of the Heart will help you develop practices that draw you into a deeper and lasting relationship with God. Each day of the year, this simple guide will help you focus on one essential aspect of your walk with God and show you how to make it a habit. In her new devotional, Habits of the Heart, Katy invites the reader to practice fifty-two different spiritual disciplines (one a week) throughout the year. Each devotion is short enough to complete by the time you brew your coffee. The purpose of each day is to give small, achievable ways to experience God and grow with Him throughout the day.
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]