by Dale Ryan
I don’t mean speed as in “meth.” I mean speed as in “fast.”
Like most people, I like speed. I tend to think that fast is better. A faster computer is a better computer. A faster internet connection is a better internet connection. Fast is better in lots of ways. I’d much rather go to a two week intensive to work on a personal problem than to slug it out for a year in therapy. Much rather.
But clearly fast is not always better. The example I often use is surgery for cancer. After surgery you don’t ask the doctor “Was it quick?”. No. You ask “Did you get it all?”. And that’s a whole different matter. Speed doesn’t matter that much in this context. What matters far more than speed is thoroughness. That means that speed is, at best, a conditional virtue. . it depends on the circumstances.
Just about everybody I know who is in recovery and who is a Christian struggles at one point or another in the process with the feeling that “this should be going faster.” Or “I should be better by now.” Sometimes people — even well-intentioned folks — will say this to us. Or will imply that if only we prayed more, were more sincere, were more something. . . that this would already be solved. It is, of course, only very, very rarely helpful to receive this kind of help with our inventory. . .and it can be very hurtful.
I admit speed is not a traditional theological category. Look at any of your standard three-volume-systematics and you won’t find a chapter entitled “Speed” in any of them. Speed seems, however, to be pretty important theologically for people in recovery. The point at which speed becomes interesting theologically seems to me to be the moment when (and the way in which) we connect speed with power. Isn’t speed a reflection of power? Forget cars and computers now — think about personal change. Isn’t the speed of personal change determined by the power we have available to us? And isn’t God all-powerful? So shouldn’t God be able to empower us to change quickly? For many people, this series of questions seems to lead to an unavoidable conclusion — if you have God’s power available to you, whatever change is needed should be taken care of quickly. Even instantly. Miraculously. Just. . . pray a little prayer, leave it at the foot of the cross, whatever. . it should be done by the time you have finished reading this sentence.
But is this biblical?
Well, that’s what I suggest talking about in this blog for a while. Of course, things sometimes do happen quickly. And we are usually grateful for those parts of the journey. But what about the slow parts? What about the stuff that takes longer than any of us want? What about those times? Here are a few questions:
1) Are miracles the only sure sign of the presence of God’s power?
2) Are some miracles slow ones?
3) What biblical resources might be useful in thinking about fast/slow? (e.g. How long did Moses tend goats? What, if anything, might that mean for us?)
4) What forms can God’s power take during times when the process is slow?
5) There may be theological issues other than ‘power’ that should inform how we think about speed. What are they?
6) Which biblical characters experienced ‘slow’? How did they deal with it? What can we learn from their experiences?
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