One Saturday morning, my husband and I planned to check out Shenandoah Valley here in Virginia. We’ve been looking forward to getting out in nature for a day. We enjoy the small parks near by and the greenery in our backyard (green is everywhere in Northern Virginia!), but we wanted to explore and exercise away from the bustle and humming of the city. We drove about an hour southwest of the Northern Virginia/DC metro area and discovered mountains around the green and quiet valley of Shenandoah. We were excited to get out of the car and stretch our legs, and so was our 16 month-old son. Oliver is quite busy and active in the mornings, so by 9am he wanted “down” and to start moving. We were looking forward to walking along with our adventurer. Once we got to the trail, my husband set Oliver down and I started walking down the trail, inhaling the sweet mountain air. Oliver was moving but it was a snail-like pace. I wanted to explosively bound through the paths and get my heart-rate up. I was ready to pummel and conquer the trail! Not so much. I had to remind myself for Oliver to get his wiggles out, we need to keep him on the ground and go at a toddler’s pace. Parenting is the crazy juxtaposition of everything whizzing by yet you’re inching your way along on the rollercoaster ride, and then you look up and it’s another month, milestone, or year. It’s easy to rush through and feel burdened by every ounce of the unexpected. I have to daily do an inventory on my mindset, reminding myself it all will fly by and I’ll regret not being fully intentional and present. As I slowly stepped next to my toddler, I take notice of the detailed trees around me, the cool breeze brushing on my skin, the light reflecting through the trees, the wooded smell, and the slow growth of spring. Having a child has really helped me slow down and appreciate all the things I use to hurry past, and I’ve come to appreciate relishing in the moment, what use to be almost uncomfortable for me. I realized how I not only was always looking for the next thing, but once I got to that thing, I didn’t even stop to enjoy where I got, who I was with, or what I had obtained. What’s worse, I would pass by so many people who need paying attention to. As I remember our days are numbered, my heart breathes in the bittersweet realization of these fleeting moments are but gifts.
When I think about the pace of life, I look back and see lots of moments of rushing and missing out on the beauty that was all around me. This reminds me of the parable Jesus told in Luke 10:25-37, about a man who was attacked on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was beaten and robbed. A couple different religious leaders hurried by him, not even stopping to observe someone in pain and desperation. How many times have we done this, and dare I say, on the way to church or to do “god’s work”? The Samaritan man stops and has compassion upon this left-for-dead man. He not only nursed his wounds, he took him to a nearby inn, paid for his stay, and checked back in with him. If this man hadn’t slowed down, looked at what was going on around him, deciding to set his own schedule aside and show love to a stranger. Jesus was perfectly driving the point home on who your neighbor is and how to love them. He also shows us how important it is to be aware of our surroundings, who & what we burst past in the midst of our busy lives. I think there’s a way to be effective and slow down, to be accomplished and yet mindful, to be proactive and peaceful. Bringing our hearts to a slower pace doesn’t mean there’s an absence of chaos but an opportunity to relinquish our time and further grow in holiness at a moments notice. When we live in a constant state of surrender, we allow God to move within us and help us see how he can mobilize us to touch the lives of others. We are gifted time that is immeasurable and invaluable; In response, let’s be intentional and surrender to God these treasured moments, seeking and heeding His presence.