On the Sacred of Slowing

by | Mar 10, 2014 | Encouragement, Sabbath


On first morning glance from the second floor window of a borrowed beach house, a flock of small birds flutter over the tops of evergreen, the wind holding their stance like a mobile hanging over an infant’s crib. Underneath them branches weigh down with hard blue berries I once collected in my pockets as child finding treasure on weekends with my grandparents. Beyond the outline of the trees, a wide expanse of quiet sea glitters sun swept. The sky, a bowl of cloudless cerulean mocks the gale force winds and rain pelting our windows throughout the darkness last night.

Sitting inside on days like this one is like an allergen to my system.  It’s as if my soul is crying for connection with creation. I no longer feel guilty about listening to the longing. I’m embracing slowness and wanderlust like it’s my profession.

I desire mercy and not sacrifice. I read that twice in the Gospel of Matthew last week — once in chapter nine and again in chapter twelve. I admitted to my Sabbath Society peeps in my weekly email that God knows I need repetition like a mother with her arms over her chest; eyebrows arched, waiting for me to get it.

Oh I got it.

The point he was making is this: Stop worrying about the stuff you think you’re doing for me, I want your heart.

Last Wednesday, I joined the #LentChallenge, reading seven chapters of the New Testament daily and I gave up reading books. In less than a week, the discipline has proved to be bit of soul rehab. Quieting self-talk – my side of conversation with voices of authors — is like learning how to listen to my heart again while embracing my own thoughts with confidence.

Looking over the past ten years of living a stone’s throw from the Atlantic, the sea has taught me the lesson of hearing God’s voice with distinct clarity. The manifestation of his presence is palpable in the absence of community. I didn’t ask for that gift, but he knew I wanted it and I’m thankful.

Shorelines are empty during winter but loneliness no longer accompanies the absence. He has turned agony into redemption with the hope of promise fulfilled on the horizon.


Alone on a wide expanse of empty beach lies a battlefield of broken shells strewn among vagrant feathers, washed ashore from stormy swells of angry waters.  Sea gulls sun their beaks on plump ivory breasts, trading summertime squawking for peaceful silence.

I am a voyeur to beauty as shoes make sandy imprints and my t-shirt becomes a receptacle for whelks, conch and creamy shark eyes glistening in the mixture.  Color and diversity create a tapestry of brokenness, more beautiful together than separate.

Of course I would’ve crunched them under my feet in haste had I not embraced the sacredness of slowing, the lesson of learning to see unwanted circumstance with gratitude instead of contempt.

I’m kicking off a new series at The High Calling, Pencils Down, addressing How Rest Informs Your Work with the hope that in everything, from to-do lists to identity, we will be encouraged to make small advances toward stopping when it’s time to stop. Join me there this week?


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  1. Jillie

    Ah, Shelly, You have fed my soul this morning with images of the sea. Evidence that, like the sea, change is a’comin’. It has been a long, cold winter here and only now are we seeing the very first hope of Spring. This has truly been the “winter of my discontent”. Wanderlust? That’s me. You have lifted me out of the doldrums this morning, reminding me that His beauty is everywhere, even under the 6′ snow-bank in front of my house. I’m sure there are tiny Snowdrops lying in wait to burst forth in all their splendour. I’d rather see feathers and sea shells, but Snowdrops would be just as good right about now. Thank you Shelly for these poetic images, and the reminder to always be aware of His handiwork…to wait…and to watch for it. And then, to give Thanks.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m so glad to know this spoke to you Jillie, it makes it worth writing and making a trip to a coffee shop to get internet access. Praying spring is full of the fulfillment of promise for you.

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