When I was a child, my mother subscribed to a now passé magazine called The Ladies Home Journal. I remember being intrigued by a regular feature depicting a kitchen floor plan crisscrossed with small footprints; the goal was to show how dinner could be prepared with the minimum number of steps. Efficiency was in the air in the 1950s, and that time-saving impulse was possibly the first step in our journey to fast food. Too late, we are assessing the loss to our taste buds and to our health when we came to rely on convenience food. Now the Slow Food Movement is trying to undo some of the damage.
Diet is not the only thing, or even the most important thing, we are sacrificing on the altar of efficiency. Letter writing has given way to email; face-to-face meetings have become Facetime; texts have replaced phone calls. We tweet a thought to dozens of people in a fraction of the time it takes to have coffee with one friend, but in the process much of the slow work of building and maintaining a relationship never happens.
In the same way, our spiritual lives are being squeezed by competing demands. How many times have I been enticed by a new idea, read a book review, been challenged by a sermon but done nothing more than make note of my wish to learn more? Such things take time, and more pressing matters always seem to have claimed that time.
This Lent I hope to work on a Slow Food Movement for the heart and soul. I will take more steps, not fewer. I want to spend real time with my friends, read the book and not just the review. I want to stop sending God texts and start praying. I want to stop feeling too full. Instead I hope to feel nourished.