“Go Slowly”

I’ve had a song by Donovan running through my head today.  It’s actually from the film “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” directed by Franco Zeffirelli in 1972.  Donovan provided the soundtrack to the film, and though it is a bit campy and very much from the 70’s, it’s one of the most beautiful film/soundtrack pairings I’ve ever encountered.  The lyrics read, in part:

If you want your dream to be
take your time, go slowly.
Do few things but do them well;
heartfelt work grows purely.
(Here’s a link to a video of the song in the film)

The song has been on my mind lately because of an insight that I had recently about the shape my life has been taking since I became a college chaplain.  In the last few years, I have really been busier than ever.  When I was the pastor of a local church, I thought I had a busy life, but being a chaplain has been even busier.  Often, after my day “officially” ends at 5 p.m., I return to campus at 8 or 9 p.m. for a meeting or an event, and I am often called upon to be the official pray-er at many campus events outside the normal business hours.  Despite being busier than ever, I still feel more relaxed, more at peace, and less angered by little annoyances than ever before.

I think that the difference lies in the kind of busy-ness that I am engaged in now.  Before, I spent a lot of time putting out fires and soothing over parishioners who were angry about one thing or another–often issues that were beyond my control.  When I wanted to bring about change or try out a new idea, it was usually met with frustration and reluctance.  Now, don’t get me wrong–I loved parish ministry, and I feel it was a great preparation for what I’m doing now, but I can tell that campus ministry is where I was meant to be–I tell people that I was born to do this!  College students have their quirks and frustrations, too, but I feel that my ministry now is more relaxed, and that I can be more like my true self, rather than the mask I often had to wear as a pastor.

Another difference comes from the choices I’ve made since moving to Ada and working at ONU.  For instance, last year I sold my beloved Saturn car and bought a golf cart.  It’s cold in the winter, but it’s awesome in the summer, and it saves gas year-round.  I fill the golf cart up with a tank of gas about every 2-3 months, depending on how much use it gets.  I’ve also started biking more–even going so far recently to buy a nice new cruiser bike–the one-speed kind with the oversized wheels, big cushy seat, and the swept-back handlebars.  The net effect of both of these transportation decisions is that both of my main modes of transportation around town force me both to move more slowly, and to interact more with the people around me.  In the golf cart or on the bike, I can wave a friendly “hello” to the people I pass by, because I’m moving slowly enough to see who they are, and to possibly even strike up a conversation.  Often, I can be found sitting by the side of the road, leaning out of the cart or leaning against the bike, having a chat with a neighbor, a friend, or a student.  It’s changed the way I do ministry, because I now have the opportunity to interact in ways and in places where I never would have before.

Before anyone gets the idea that I’m suggesting that all pastors and chaplains buy a golf cart and a bike, let me clarify my point.  The point is that it is the way one approaches the people in one’s life, and not that one’s mode of transportation, that is the most important factor in ministry.  Riding my bike or my golf cart slows me down, makes me notice, and gives me time to think.  Rushing around accomplishes nothing.  Focusing in on the faces and situations of the people around you makes you more aware of the needs that exist, and makes you think carefully about how you will help address those needs.  It helps you set priorities.  Or, as Donovan sang:

Do few things but do them well;
heartfelt work grows purely.