When I was a kid, we traveled to Colorado every December to go skiing. Our trip to the mountains was my favorite trip of the year for so many reasons. I got to learn a winter sport as a kid even though I lived in the heart of Texas, and that was a great gift that my family gave me growing up. But I also got to experience a different world. Whether it was the snow or the mountains, flying to Denver each year reminded me that something greater was beyond the flatlands of Houston. It always captured my imagination, and drew me into an upward posture, even as a lost, young boy who wasn’t a big fan of change.
During our trips to the mountains, the worst part was the drive from Denver into the resort areas on I-70. You never knew if the weather was going to be any good to make the trip and it seemed like there was always a delay. Before there were portable TV’s, and Gameboys only had a battery life of about 2 hours, there was imagination, car games (remember punch bug!), and lots and lots of observation. One of the things I observed were random ramps off of the highway that seemingly led to no where. I never understood why they were closed or barricaded and what their purpose was. So, one day I asked my dad what these ramps were and to where they led. He then explained to me the laws of physics behind a big rig 18-wheeler, brakes, and the difficulty to stop in the mountains. Because of the nature of their weight, if the driver rides the brakes too much going through the mountains, they can melt the brakes, making it impossible for them to stop. Drivers use the runaway ramps as an emergency means to stop, keeping everyone on the road safe (here’s an example).
Advent is the runaway ramp to our big rigs of life. We have no idea how to stop, how to wait, how to go slow, or how to be deliberate. Proof of that was this last Sunday when we intentionally slowed the music down, didn’t rush, and simply invited everyone into the pain of waiting. It felt uncomfortable, awkward, and different. Even I felt the tension of my rapidly paced week pushed up against the stillness that our gathering was inviting us into.
In a world that is fast, big, loud, and bright, God has always spoken not in the obvious, but in the subversive nature of slow, small, quiet, and dark. Because we are drowned out with merry tunes, blinded by bright lights, and full on our calendars I wonder how we’re doing through Advent as a people. I wonder if we are letting ourselves get distracted by the pace our culture is setting or if we are being reset by the stillness God is calling us towards? I wonder if we are more purposeful towards Elf on the Shelf or with Advent Devotionals with our kids? I wonder if we are longing and waiting or if we are busy and impatient?
No matter where you are today, my prayer is that you would start to pump the brakes, downshift, or whatever is necessary so that you don’t have to use the runaway ramp. Slowing down is worth it. Though you may feel unproductive or without purpose in the beginning, God will show Himself to you, and what greater treasure is there than that, but God Himself?
Waiting along with you in the long, uncomfortable season of Advent,