The Beauty in Slowing
When the bus stops at the bottom of the hill, I am bewildered. Does this mean I am expected to lug my overpacked suitcase and backpack up the windy hill to Camp des Cimes? With nothing but an aching back and naïve optimism I trudge forward.
My finger anxiously clicks the power button to my phone on and off. On. Off. Where is the Wi-Fi signal?
More than eighty students are on the cusp of a week of training and spiritual renewal in the French Alps. Once our team of Ten2ers arrive, we file downstairs and begin singing and praising Jesus all together. After days of exhausting travel caused by countless flight delays, it is the power of the Spirit that carries many of our voices and bodies. Tears gleam in my eyes and relief washes over my aching bones.
Perhaps this is what Heaven will feel like.
The following morning, I am given an hour to spend with Jesus on my own, so I find a patch of grass outside and open my Bible. Despite being surrounded by the alluring French mountains, I am greeted with jet lagged yawns, my mind still set to multitasking and my body unfamiliar with stillness. My mind races and I struggle to offer God my full attention.
Bees buzz in my ear, bugs latch onto my legs, and the grass begins to itch. I hear a brook nearby where water runs softly and quietly, yet this fails to calm my overstimulated mind. While my body sits in France, my mind floats back home to the United States, working at its violently fast speed––drifting to the familiar Netflix show, the recent album release, old friends and my mom.
Days in, this ‘hurry detox’ causes my muscles to groan, voice to scratch and heart to come to a painful, squeaking halt. Moving through the muck of this new consciousness, I begin to reclaim all five senses.
There is so much beauty in not only eating but tasting, not only hugging but feeling, not simply hearing but listening.
After a few days, I give in to the present moment despite how strong the past and future moments seem. I quickly learn the French Alps are home to those who go through life peacefully and slowly. The people appear comfortable living in obscurity and welcome a slower pace of life. Hurry feels almost violent in their eyes and time is not so much a master but a friend.
We are summoned to dinner by a bell and sit for an hour engaging with those at our tables––without phones. The lulls in conversation are not awkward or something to be filled, rather they are an opportunity to simply be present among other
Greater Europe Mission (GEM), as an organization, teaches the gospel moves at the speed of relationships. Surprisingly, when the pace of life radically slows relationships begin to deepen, and the train of hurry derails.
Debby Chasteen, who serves as a GEM mobilizer, grew up on Camp des Cimes grounds as a missionary kid. As an adult, she recalls a reunion she had with her French friends after being away from the country for several years:
“The longest I ever sat at the dinner table in France was six hours. And it was such a delight! I hadn’t been home in three years and I was with my French friends. We started to get into some really deep sharing, and I opened up with them about what I was continuing to understand about God’s grace.”
While six hours is not the norm for French meals, it was time well spent in community. As a believer, I feel compelled to prioritize relationships enough to slow down. Jesus was busy but never hurried, often leading to life-giving conversations. His slowed lifestyle invited interruptions and diversions, and both were spaces where Jesus healed and saved.
By the end of the week, my mind and body fall into rhythm with one another. I play, hike, eat, converse and, perhaps for the first time, my mind settles into the present moment too. It doesn’t jump ahead or fall behind, stuck in the worries of tomorrow and the pain of yesterday.
My mind is present. And it is with such presence I move forward into the place God has for me next for my summer of service.
Anna Grace Mixon is a Ten2 storyteller with Greater Europe Mission and serves in Brno, Czech Republic.
Emma Hearn is a Ten2 storyteller with Greater Europe Mission and serves in Birmingham, England.