How do you navigate conversations with a large group of people? Early in our marriage, I realized my wife Robyn, and I had different approaches. She would engage one person at a time offering them her undivided attention. I tended to move from person to person five minutes at a time. What I began to notice, people left discussions with my wife feeling a sense of significance and value.
The way my wife engages conversations has a lot to do with the way she lives life. Unlike me, who either rushes 60 miles an hour or sleeps, Robyn takes her time, especially with people. She challenges me to slow down.
That means giving more time to people even when the conversation seems to go nowhere particular. Sometimes it means holding a question or comment back so a person can finish their story. Lots of time, it means being okay with silence because others might need a little more time to gather their thoughts.
We live in a time when we run towards the next best thing. Many people throw their energy into an activity without the patience to finish. I think we sometimes do this to people. If they don’t move fast enough for us, then we don’t take the time to get to know them. Instead of investing in deep relationships, we can find ourselves with a thousand acquaintances.
The Gospels record a fascinating aspect of Jesus. These writers record Jesus meeting with individuals. Often, the disciples think Jesus does not have time to talk with these people, yet He slows down for them. You can see Him with Nicodemus, the women at the well, stopping with blind Bartimaeus. The Pharisees have a conniption because Jesus has dinner with two tax collectors: Matthew and Zacchaeus.
Slowing down for others means recognizing the image of God in them. The practice of staying longer reminds us that often we can wait, and people take precedence in the view of Jesus. Grace causes us to recognize the patience of God in us so that we might give time to others.
Who will you slow down for others today?
Photo credit by Samuel Zeller.