How slowing down can make us better parents

Written by Elise Tegegne
Published on June 23, 2023

Last December, I realized something had to change. Perhaps it was feeling pain grip my chest amid holding a crying, thirty-pound toddler, whisking a pot of spaghetti sauce, mentally replying to text messages, and trying to catch words from a podcast all at the same time. My weary body, mind, and spirit whispered the continually fast-paced rhythm of my life was not only harming myself and my relationships, it was harming my son. In an effort to do more faster, I was modeling a rushed rhythm of life for the next generation.

Jesus and the unrushed life

As mothers, we bear the beautiful burden of being Jesus to our children, of embodying divine love in our words and movements. Contemplating the Jesus of the Gospels, I am learning how Jesus modeled an unrushed, Spirit-paced life. Jesus’ whole life was a slow-moving process. Instead of appearing as a full-grown man on earth, Jesus submitted to being born through a peasant woman’s body, to the unsteadiness of toddler feet, to the hormonal tempest of adolescence. He walked through the process of being fully human in slow steps, year by year (Hebrews 4:15).

As an adult, Jesus did not rush; he walked (most often, literally) the steps God had for him each day, doing no more and no less than the Father asked of him (John 8:29). To Martha’s frustration, Jesus intentionally delayed a visit to Lazarus, arriving too late to heal his beloved friend, but just in time to resurrect him from the dead (John 11:1–44). And when wind-churned waves threatened to engulf his fishing boat, Jesus (asleep in the rocking waters) was in no rush to calm the storm (Matthew 8:23–27).

Lately, the story deeply challenging my patterns of rushing is when Jesus agreed to heal Jairus’ dying twelve-year-old daughter. While walking back to Jairus’ home amid a jostling crowd, Jesus felt a tug on his clothing. And he stopped everything (Mark 5:30). Fully knowing Jairus’ anxiety, fully knowing the interruption would prevent them from making it to the girl’s bedside before she died, fully knowing he was in the middle of the most urgent of missions—saving a dying child—Jesus paused.

Profoundly sensitive to the suffering of others, Jesus sought the woman who had tugged on his hem, the woman he had just healed of twelve years of bleeding. He took the time to look her in the eye and call her “daughter” (Mark 5:34 ESV).

Walking in the Spirit’s rhythm

Moving in step with the Spirit, Jesus was not in too much of a hurry to be interrupted or compassionate toward the suffering. He moved at a pace that allowed him to feel the anguish of others; to peer into the faces of the brokenhearted, stop for a conversation, offer a word, a piece of bread, or a healing.

How many times are we in the middle of doing something good and important (baking a casserole for a new mom, hacking at that mountain of laundry), and we don’t heed the annoying, often literal, tug at our hems and attend to the need before us?

So often in our rush to pursue our agendas, we are blinded to the needs of neighbors, friends, family, and particularly those weak, vulnerable souls among us: our children. When we are rushing, we are more apt to be hard-hearted toward our children’s tears and sometimes even physically harm them by bumping into their tottering bodies. But when we walk at Jesus’ pace, we are more gentle and compassionate and more attentive to our children’s needs. When I carefully lace my son’s red boots instead of rushing to furnish his feet as fast as I can, I communicate the tender love of Jesus.

While Jesus was still speaking with the now-healed woman, a messenger told Jairus, “Your daughter is dead” (Mark 5:35). But Jesus was utterly unflustered; this was all part of the plan. When he entered the darkened room of Jairus’ dead daughter, he tenderly held the little girl’s hand and told her to rise. She awakened, hungry.

Because Jesus did not rush but walked in the Spirit’s rhythm, a miracle unfolded before an ordinary family in an ordinary room. I wonder what gifts God has tucked into the folds of each day for those that walk at his pace and those who aren’t afraid to do less (or appear to do less in others’ eyes). I wonder what gifts he has for those who choose to obey the Spirit’s voice and entrust the results of their obedience to God.

Walking by the Spirit not only leads us into compassionate attention to our family’s needs, it also opens us to delight. Jesus could have kept walking, knowing the bleeding woman had been healed. But he took the time to meet her. Jesus’ love is so deep he doesn’t just want to do things for us—he delights in us. When I take time to bathe my son, I am more apt to wind up his little green turtle and giggle with him as it paddles through the tub. I am more apt to simply enjoy the gift of being with him.

Walking at a Spirit-led pace leads us deeper into intimacy with Jesus. We learn to hear the timbre of his voice (Isaiah 30:21) and know the nudging of his staff. We learn to trust our good and gentle Shepherd (Psalm 23). Ultimately, modeling Jesus-paced rhythms is not about fast and slow, but about embodying the love of Jesus to our children so they would love him, too.


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Elise Tegegne

Elise Tegegne lives in Indianapolis with her husband and energetic two-year-old. Her work has appeared at Fathom, Plough, Risen Motherhood, and (in)courage, among others. She is writing a blog series called “Experiments in Inefficiency,” which seeks to find out what it means to live a

Spirit-paced life. Read more of her words at elisetegegne.com or reach out on Instagram @elisetegegne.

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