Going Deeper to Grow Taller

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve become a headline reader. I’m sure I’m still capable of deeper thought and closer attention … but, truth be told, it’s not a usual part of my day anymore – with an exception. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

I ran a half marathon last weekend. I’d travelled nearly three hours to get there. And I wanted to win. This wasn’t my original motivation for going all the way to Lismore for a charity run. Ninety percent of my initial interest was to do something small to support the community after they’d been hit by devastating floods earlier in the year.

Yet, somewhere closer to the event, my desire shifted to grabbing the headlines. To winning. Somewhere a transition had happened. Altruism had turned to looking at what I could get.

Shocked to realise this on my drive down, I tried to turn it around. I worked to make a conscious decision to go with the attitude of giving more than I took away. For example, I hoped that if I won anything, I would donate any prizes I received back to the local charity.

I didn’t get the opportunity to discover if I’d be able to stick to that. Although I did win, there were no prizes.

What I think I want vs what I actually want

That may seem like a strange detour from the introduction. What’s my half marathon got to do with only reading headlines?

Well, I think a lot of the reason I wanted to win was because that’s what people seem to care about. In our headline-reading society, if you don’t do something dramatic – like win – you’re mostly overlooked. At least by the masses. And when we measure success by likes and views, it seems pleasing the masses is what matters.

That could be a provocative statement.

If I slow down to think about it, the challenge of running hard and long, and doing it with others is what I really enjoy. The community afterwards, the sense of working together towards something bigger.

Out on the road, just me and the still morning, is a place my thoughts often drift to deeper places. A time when I can process things without distraction.

This sort of satisfaction is quieter and less exhilarating. It doesn’t draw applause. It’s pretty normal.

It’s more like reading a book and less like watching a blockbuster. More like slowly pondering a well-thought-through article and less like skimming over the large print.

I think I can slow down and cultivate a deeper life. But honestly, the motivation is not as enticing as chasing the quick-fix.

The only way to be the people we want to be

I don’t have many answers. But I do know that the quiet, gentle work of living with integrity through the non-spectacular parts of life will gradually result in greater strength from a deeper place.

We can tell when we meet someone who’s taken the time to cultivate this inner wholeness. These people have a warm sincerity and nothing to prove. You can tell they’re okay being themselves. They’re not seeking to get anything from you.

They don’t seem to think much about themselves at all. They look out with a sense of wonder. They take it all in, one breath at a time. They look up, with a simple faith. They are free because they know they’re cared for.

The only way to become people like this is to slow down. To do less better. And to remind yourself that, while the masses don’t pay much attention to the roots, slowly pushing deeper through the hard ground, it’s the only way to grow tall without falling.

When our focus is on growing deeper, we grow taller without noticing it. The process is what’s important and the results come without needing to make a big deal about it.

But I’ve become a headline reader, which threatens to make my life about headline-getting, about aiming to please the masses out there, rather than quietly nurturing what matters beneath the surface.

I would do well to heed the words of Jesus found in Matthew chapter 6, verses 1 to 6, especially verse 6, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Headlines often make a big deal about not much. Beneath them are articles that leave you unsatisfied. If I’m to do actual good for other people, I’ve got to become a person of substance and that means slowing down, being honest about my weaknesses, and focusing more on what’s not seen by everyone else.

I wonder, how can we encourage a culture that celebrates working through the realities of life with courage and sincerity instead of giving all our attention to flashy highlights that draw quick applause?

Tom Anderson

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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