In John 11, Jesus receives word that his friend Lazarus is sick. Instead of rushing to Lazarus’ bedside to heal him, verse six says that Jesus “stayed where he was two more days” (NIV). In the meantime, Lazarus dies. Had I been one of the disciples, I would have had a hard time understanding why Jesus didn’t drop what he was doing and set out for Bethany immediately. There was, however, a point to Jesus’ delay: “that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (v. 4) and “that [the disciples] may believe” (v. 15). The time was of no consequence to Jesus, who went on to raise Lazarus and teach us something in the process — namely, it’s not only the end result that matters but also what we learn in the time it takes getting there.
There’s something to be said for proceeding steadily but not quickly. I drive an hour each morning to get to my office, and my commute covers long stretches of rural highway. I am not a slow driver, but I am also not a fast one. I take my time, and I enjoy the ride — drinking my coffee, watching the sun rise over the hills, allowing my mind to go wherever it pleases. My early morning commute is a time for introspection, a time to check in with myself. I value my drive for what it has taught me about the joy of not being in too big a hurry.
I do, however, tend to rush at other times. When I was in graduate school, I couldn’t wait to be finished. It was not an altogether pleasant experience; I thought the faster it went, the quicker I could move on to a phase of life that seemed more appealing — one without lectures, papers, and late nights studying for exams. Looking back, I wish I had listened more carefully to the lectures, read some of the books more thoroughly, and paid closer attention to the people around me. Had I seen then as clearly as I do now that what happens on the journey is as important as reaching the destination, I might have spent less mental energy being frustrated by the pace. I might have freed my mind to be more attentive to and grateful for the self-discovery I was gaining in the process.
While the journey between life’s milestones is important, so too are the much shorter distances we traverse each day — the time we stand in line to order a cup of coffee, the duration of a dull meeting, the afternoon bus ride home. I want to take my time with the same confidence Jesus had getting to Lazarus. I don’t get the sense that Jesus wasted that time but instead used it intentionally. The story reminds me that there is value in not being in a hurry — that no matter where we are on the journey there is a lesson to be learned in the moment. When things are going slower than I would like, I ask myself, What am I not paying attention to that I should? What is this supposed to teach me? What is God trying to tell me? Even — perhaps especially — in the delay, there’s something to learn.
Several meditations in this issue address slowing down and learning a lesson from the moment at hand. You may want to read again the meditations for September 4, 10, 14, 27, 29 and October 7, 10, 14, 17, 26, and 28 before responding to the reflection questions below.
1.When have you rushed through a situation or experience only to later wish you had slowed down? What did you learn from that experience?
2. Read John 11:1-44. What stands out to you the most in this story? Do you think the outcome might have been different had Jesus gone to Bethany immediately? Explain.
3. In what circumstances is it easiest for you to be present and attentive? At what times is it most difficult?
I could not have found The Upper Room Moments of Prayer (on Facebook Live) sooner. For it is during these moments of centering spiritual practices, meditating on the words of scripture, praying with and for the world, that I find moments of transcendence, hear whispers of peace and hope, see glimpses of truth and justice, behold visions of love and beauty amid all the stark realities that are around me.”