Slow down, please

September 19, 2021
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We were only children when they told us the story of the Hare and Tortoise. At the strides both animals move, it was ridiculous for tortoise to challenge Hare to a race.

Every animal in the jungle knew that Hare was capable of outrunning Tortoise a hundred times over but they nevertheless assembled at the finish point to witness the outcome of the imbalance race.

After a rather long wait, to every animal’s surprise and excitement, there came Tortoise crawling to the finish line and winning the race. What happened to Hare, the Usain Bolt?

Hare had taken off at a break-neck speed, boastfully undermining Tortoise’s pathetic start. But he took a nap under a tree along the way.

After all, there was no way Tortoise could finish the race first—even in a dream.

Hare overslept, and the dream became a nightmare when he woke up to see Tortoise winning the race.

Disgraced and humbled, Hare pulled down two long ears over his eyes to try and block out the humiliating jeers and taunts from fellow animals.

Slow

The original storyteller drew a conclusion, saying, “Slow but steady wins the race!”

In other words, as wise man Solomon puts it, “. . . the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong . . . but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

Is this Hare and Tortoise story just an animal fable—or is it about humans? I shudder to even think about the many Hare-style “races” in life that end in disaster.

Instead of “slow but steady” winning the race, break-neck speed can end not only the race but life itself.

Because we were children whose mental faculties were tender and could not absorb jarred imaginations, the storyteller cushioned the tale. They said Hare slept on the way—a nice narrative for children to think about. But what else could have happened to Hare travelling at that dangerous speed?

He could have crushed into a rock and broken his legs. He could have missed the way and ended up in a lion’s den. But this was a children’s story, and our minds could not process these suggested bloody plots.

Learn

Now that we are adults, how much did we learn from the fable about slow but steady winning the race of life? Instead, we ridicule the caution about speeding in our daily pursuits.

“Hurry, hurry has no blessing,” we are constantly admonished but we are always in a hurry. For example, some people want to get rich so quickly they abandon good reason in order to cut corners.

Ritual murders, fraud and gambling are all the result of wanting to get rich quickly.

When I’m driving at 50 km on a city highway, I seem to be a crawling tortoise when some crazy Hare-drivers rush past as if they were planes about to fly.

Soon, however, the traffic jam slows down everybody and you wonder, what was the point of that speed? Of all human errors, mechanical faults, and speeding, the latter is responsible for most of the carnage on our roads.

To avert perennial poor relationships, the Apostle James urges slowness: “My beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).

Speaking too quickly and getting angry hastily have often resulted in quarrels. But James’s “slow to speak, slow to anger” counsel has helped many to foster good relationships.

Living today is so fast-paced that we hardly make time to observe and enjoy our environment, wildlife and vegetation, birds soaring in the sky, the beauty of rainfall and the moon and stars at night.

One day the Lord Jesus, busy as he was with preaching and teaching, told his disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). Slowing down and resting affords us the opportunity to pray, meditate and restore lost energy.

Failing to slow down for rest has led many in Christian and secular ministries to burn out.

Every worker is entitled to an annual leave, which is a time for rest. But some workers “sell” their leave, resulting in the law of diminishing returns that lowers productivity.

We forget that slowing down helps the body to restore and revitalise tired bones and sinews. Medical experts tell us this all the time.

There are seven days in a week, and God designated one of them for rest.

Creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh day is God’s way of telling us the importance of slowing down and resting.

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