Editor's note: This article was originally published on Kevin A. Thompson's blog. It has been republished here with permission.
I notice it when I'm stressed — my pace quickens, my stride gets longer; I walk fast. When I catch myself, my mind always goes back to graduate school. I worked at a church for a semester. The pastor was wonderful. He was kind, compassionate, and always made time for me. The internship was a school assignment which did very little to impact my academics, but did much to impact my soul.
When the semester ended, I had a closing session with the pastor. It was supposed to be about what I had learned, but at the end of the meeting the pastor asked if I had any advice for him. It was a funny picture — a 20–something kid who had never been a pastor giving advice to someone who had done the job well for over 20 years. But one thing quickly popped into my mind and I probably said it when I shouldn't have.
I said. It wasn't what he expected. He was intrigued. "Walk slower," he repeated. "Why?"
I explained what I had noticed over the past few months. He was a fast walker and rightly so. The demands of a large church are many. No one fully understands it until they have been there. The pastor is expected to do everything for everyone in a perfect way and with a great attitude. It can be overwhelming. The result is that pastors are almost always running from one thing to the next.
Over a decade into the pastorate myself now, I realize there are two reasons pastors tend to walk fast:
We are busy and nearly always running late.
Walking fast communicates a busyness and people are less likely to stop us, interrupt us, or require something from us.
As an outsider in this pastor's life I had watched the looks on faces as he walked by at a high speed. They wanted to say something, to be seen, to be recognized. They didn't want to bother him, but they wanted to relate to him. His high speed prevented it from happening so my advice was to walk slower. It wouldn't make his life easier, but it would communicate an ease to those around him. They would feel as though he saw them.
Pastors walk fast because they are in a hurry but they also walk fast to protect themselves. Hearts, which are probably already giving more than they are getting, have to find ways to protect what is left.
We do so because we are busy. There are gifts to be bought, meals to be prepared, Christmas cards to send. The demands of Christmas occur in the midst of the normal demands of life. Christmastime is almost always busier and because of that we pick up the pace.
Yet whether we realize it or not, a good number of us pick up the pace this time of year not just because we are busy, but because we are hurting. The faster we walk, the less we see, remember, or feel. We walk fast to protect ourselves.
The happiest time of the year can be one of the most painful times. This is a holiday which gathers every potential source of pain and has them all sit down for a meal — family of origin, memory of childhood, loved ones lost, loved ones absent, loved ones who never loved back. It can be overwhelming.
For many, Christmas is something far more to be endured than enjoyed.
So we run. Some out of busyness, some out of pain, but we all run. Yet in running we miss it.
We don't miss the pain. That's a human deception to believe we can out run the pain. Running doesn't deprive us of the pain; it deprives us of the healing. It robs us of the good which can intermingle with our sorrow.
Running doesn't lessen our stress. We don't get more done; it doesn't make the season easier.
By hurrying through the holiday, we don't miss any of the bad, but we miss much, if not all, of the good.
Most of the good things in life cannot be experienced in a hurry — a loving look from a spouse, the reaction of a child, a recognition of all the blessings. These things are only experienced slowly. A good meal has to be savored, a warm fire has to be enjoyed, family has to be cherished — these are experiences which must be taken in slowly.
So it is with Jesus. He won't be experienced in a hurry
We can't run through Christmas and expect to see him. We will only meet him if we walk.
So take your time.
Don't hurry the days. Don't rush the moments.
Walk slowly. Observe. Experience. Wait.
In so doing, listen, see, and feel the presence of God.
He is here. Calling to us and desiring to reveal himself in the midst of the thrill and sorrow. The joy reminds us of what he has done for us. The pain proves this world is not our ultimate home. The regret defines our need for his presence. The flashes of perfection give us a taste of what is to come in heaven. The disappointments remind us we are not there yet.
Feel it. Embrace it. Live every moment of this season as an act of worship to God, but know this — worship can never be hurried. It can happen in the middle of chaos, pressing demands, and the sense of being overwhelmed, but worship itself demands a paced heart, a keen eye, an attentive ear, and a slow walk.
While everyone else runs through the season, let's walk.
Kevin A. Thompson is Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church, a multi-site church in Fort Smith, AR. He currently writes a daily blog focusing on leadership, marriage, and parenting (specifically parenting a child with special needs). Along with his wife, Kevin is co-owner of JThompsonMMC, a full-service media and marketing company based in Fort Smith. He is a graduate of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and Oklahoma Baptist University. Kevin is also the author of "Friends, Partners, and Lovers—What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work.