They’re my favorite animals, but I think they get a bad rap sometimes. Officially designated as the slowest mammals on earth*, sloths move an average of only 40 yards per day**! Their lack of speed even resulted in their being named “sloth” – a word that means “slow” and “sluggish”.
But sloths aren’t lazy – they’re just smart! On a diet of only leaves, twigs, and buds that take days to digest, sloths have little energy to burn which means every action is a purposeful decision – they don’t waste calories on needless movement. Their laid-back lifestyle gives them little reason to rush!
In our fast-paced “go, go, go” world, the perfectly steady, slow motion of sloths is fascinating to us. When I take my kids to the zoo, I feel like I could stand there and watch them for hours (but who has time for that?!).
If we could go back in time and eyewitness Jesus as He walked on this planet, I think we would be mesmerized by His pace. During His three years of ministry, He certainly moved, but He was never in a rush. Even though His supernatural skills were in high demand and the needs around Him were thousands-fold deep, His every action was calculated and He didn’t waste energy trying to do it all.
Jesus didn’t have a need for speed because, unlike us, He had a completely accurate view of God’s eternal plan. He knew that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8) and that even if it looked like He was missing opportunities, moving faster wasn’t going to increase God’s ability to work through Him. Even though He saw the crowds as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36), He did not bow to the pressure to meet all of their urgent and compelling needs. He lived in complete trust that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
If you’ve ever tried to mimic a sloth’s pace, you know that it’s incredibly hard for us humans to do. Our muscles have a difficult time moving that slow and it almost takes more effort than going fast!
As followers of Jesus, parents, employees, friends, family members, and community citizens, we are surrounded by a world of compelling and urgent needs, making “slowing down” seemingly impossible. We’d much prefer to flutter about, using up our valuable energy in an attempt to do it all. The needs are thousands-fold deep, causing us to live in fear of missed opportunities – especially when our skills and talents are in high demand.
In the animated children’s movie, “Zootopia” there is a scene featuring my ever-patient, smiling animal friends as Department of Motor Vehicle workers (If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here: https://youtu.be/ONFj7AYgbko). Officer bunny Judy Hopps and her friend Nick Wilde the fox are working on a time-sensitive case and are in need of some information from Nick’s sloth buddy, appropriately named “Flash”. Flash, even with Officer Hopps’ increasing irritation, sees no reason to hurry, and even stops to tell his co-worker a joke!
Maybe the sloths get it and we don’t. Maybe they see that life is over in a flash and there’s no point in wasting our energy getting things done just so we can get more things done. Maybe if we intentionally and purposefully slowed down we would see that so much of what we think we’re doing to “help” is actually just our pride – after all, our skills are in high demand and if we don’t do it, who will?
A couple days ago, after having an extra-rough morning with one of our girls, I took her out for a special “Mommy Date” so we could chat. As we ate donuts, I asked questions, trying to get to the root of the problem. My mind was reeling with ideas as I thought about plans and strategies we could use as parents to help her navigate these frustrating times.
As we were driving home, I was still in “This-is-my-opportunity-to-be-Superhero-Fix-It-Mommy” mode and was so focused on my conversation with her that I ran a red light and ended up in the middle of a busy intersection, frantically trying to maneuver my car to safety. I was so focused on the problem and my plans that I forgot that my purpose in that moment was to simply drive the car and keep my child (and other drivers) safe!
Pride is sneaky and it’s so easy to get caught up in the urgency and opportunities that touch our lives. We don’t have the low muscle tone of a sloth, so our attempts to follow Jesus’ example of slowing down are going to take some effort. I need to practice regular evaluation of my heart’s intentions and my understanding of God’s purpose for me in any given moment. I may perceive that my skills and talents are in high demand but they are never a necessity to an all-powerful God!
“Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
P.S. Speaking of slowing down, I’ll be taking a some blog-time off to give my brain a rest – see you in a couple weeks!