by Rob Furlong
On a recent trip to Israel, Karen and I were taken to the "Southern Steps" in the Old City of Jerusalem.
In the days of Jesus, these steps were the means by which pilgrims ascended to the Mount on which the Temple stood in order to worship and bring their offerings to God.
Just prior to the Steps, pilgrims would purify themselves for worship by bathing in a mikveh filled with water.
Upon arrival at the Steps, pilgrims would often meet with family and friends, sit, chat and spend some time together.
If you look closely at the Steps, you will notice that they are irregular, not uniform, in their construction.
You could run up the Steps quickly if you wanted to, but this meant that you had "to gird up your loins" – pulling up your long flowing garments around you. This was particularly embarrassing for a man because it would expose his legs (and possibly other parts of his body) by doing this.
The Steps are irregular because they encourage you to ascend to the Temple for your time of worship slowly.
As a pilgrim you take the time to purify yourself in water.
You take your time ascending the Steps.
You spend time in conversation with loved ones.
Everything says to you, "Don't rush the things of God. Slow down. Take your time to enjoy and savour this moment with family, friends and God."
I love the principle behind all of this because it reminds me to slow down in life, to live in this moment and to be present with people and God.
This idea of slowing down and being present is critical if we are going to truly build better relationships.
In days gone by, we made jokes about the stereotype of the husband who begrudgingly grunted out "Yes, dear" at regular intervals while his wife spoke to him through the back page of the newspaper.
Fast forward to 2020 and we have replaced newspapers with Smart Phones or some other form of technology.
If I sit at a meeting with colleagues but I am continually glancing at my phone or responding to messages, I am not being present. My mind and attention is elsewhere, rather than focusing on what is being discussed at that moment.
And for some reason, we think this behavior goes unnoticed! But it doesn't – and it discourages people.
When a friend comes into my office to say good morning to me and I cannot tear myself away from the computer screen, look them in the eye and return the greeting, I am not being present.
Instead, I send a subtle (not necessarily intended) message that what is on my computer screen is more important than the person before me.
Our lives and relationships are literally filled with moments like these and how we respond will either build up and encourage...or slowly erode them.
If I were to live my life over, I would do it more slowly and try to be more present in the moment.
I often thought things like, "When the kids are older..." or "Once we get through this season..."
The stark truth is this – you never get those moments again.
We miss much in life and relationships when we persist in rushing through them.
But what a gift we give when we slow down and choose to be present in the moment with each other.
Swiss psychiatrist, Paul Tournier once said:
"How beautiful ... and liberating [it is] when people [listen] to each other. It is impossible to overemphasize the immense need people have to be really listened to ... Listen to all the conversations of our world, those between nations as well as those between couples. They are for the most part dialogues of the deaf."
This year, commit to slowing down and being present in the moment – it will transform your relationships!•