Slowing and the Soul Work of Relationships

by Jun 24, 2016Cultivate, Deepen8 comments

Often through the years I’ve sensed the whisper of an invitation to become present to a moment, slowing and fully noticing what is around me or the person I am listening to. The word intentional comes to mind, but it’s much wider, perhaps deeper, than that. This is an awareness at the soul level, a prayer of sorts to join God in what he is doing right where we are, to be mindful about His work within and around us and in the person we might be with.

Recently a mentor used the phrase “soul work that happens in leadership relationships.” “Soul work” and “relationships” in the same sentence snagged my attention. The context we were discussing was a spiritually-oriented conversation begun in prayer and silence. But as I stepped away from our meeting, I thought about the soul work that can happen in other contexts and relationships—family, friends, ministry, community organizations, leadership.

Imagine–What Might Our World Be Like If We Slowed?

Soul work deeply impacting relationships. I do long for that. Don’t you?

This would mean making room to breathe and slowing the whirring of our thoughts so that we can be present to that moment or to the person we are with.


Realizing we are with someone or becoming mindful that we are participating in an unfolding moment in time takes further slowing down. Are we willing to have more slow moments in our day? Even, perhaps, standing still moments?

God invites, “Be still and know I am God” (Ps. 46:10), and reminds us, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Is 30:15).

Slowing, being still, resting, quieting—these are somewhat unnatural for most of us. But imagine with me what it would be like if we were to slow and be present more often—as a community culture, as a national culture, as a world culture. I see the possibility for healthier relationships, for deeper conversations, for knowing how to encourage rest alongside productivity, for seeing people differently and more compassionately, for allowing our dreams to unfold with greater discernment, for negotiating difficulties and differences with greater care and wisdom.

I can even imagine a world that slows down enough to recognize God’s presence.

Experiment–What Might Your Life Be Like If You Slowed?

When you look at the pace of your life, what do you see? What do you long for?

Can you imagine the impact that slowing and being present would have on your life and relationships?

What is God’s invitation for you in this? I’m guessing He began that invitation long before you read the words of this post.

Experiment with one day in your life and live it more slowly. Take a moment of quiet to begin your day and simply be with God. Take time with your tasks and be fully aware of how you do each one uniquely as an expression of who you are. Give full attention to each person you are with. Listen. Notice who they are, the reflection of their gifts and dreams in their face and words. Listen without judgment or interruption or thought of what’s next on your day’s agenda.

Pay attention to what you discover in living a day like this, what soul work was accomplished and transformative for you and your relationships. Take it further if you’d like. Choose at least one or two ideas from what you tried and incorporate some form of slowing as a rhythm in each day.

And of course, please share your thoughts about this topic and your discoveries. I’d love to learn from you.


  1. Susan Sage

    Scripture is always a wonderfully calming, slowing source. I’ve lived through a forced slowing. I much prefer now to be present in my relationship with God so that I clearly hear when I need to slow or change my focus so that I am present in any given moment. Having a forced slowing was difficult, at best, but so worth it in the long run. I thank God for the times He nudges me and reminds me to be present. Again, it’s always worthwhile.

    • Jan Kern

      Yes, always worthwhile, Susan–whether a forced slowness, due to life’s events, or flowing out of God’s nudges and invitations. He uses it all so beautifully, doesn’t He!

  2. Xochitl E. Dixon

    Jan, thanks for this thought-provoking post.

    The Lord reminded me to live “in the present” when I served as my mom’s caregiver. When I asked Him to show me how to better serve her, His answer wasn’t what I expected: be available and attentive.

    My mom needed me to live in the moment, because we weren’t promised the next moment. Those slow and often moments are my favorite memories.

    Thanks for encouraging us to nurture all of our relationships in this way. We can appreciate every moment with a person, as if it were our last moment with them.

    Imagine how much quicker we’d forgive, how many big things would seem trivial, if we knew we would never be with a person again.

    If we’d remember that no one is promised another moment, it would be easier to slow down and savor the present with God and others.

    Think of how much less we’d worry or fear. 🙂

    • Jan Kern

      Two amazing words that aptly describe slowing: available and attentive. You gave your mother a beautiful gift and I’m guessing without realizing those moments and memories would end up being a gift to you. Thinking of spending time with someone as if it could be the last–that’s a wonderful way to approach this. Considering that possibility would naturally slow us–or hopefully so. Thank you for encouraging me through your words, Xochitl.

  3. Pat Baer

    Exceptional! Thank you,Jan.

    • Jan Kern

      Thank you, Pat, for stopping by. Hmmm . . . I think of you as a person who understands and pursues slowing and deepening relationships.

  4. Bethany

    I think we lose the sense of living in the present by not only trying to “do it all” in our life, but also trying to do it all in any given day. We try to accomplish too much in too little time–the ultimate killer for enjoyimg others, God, or truly living any given moment. I loved the verses about rest, too! 🙂

    • Jan Kern

      How I see that, Bethany. And “doing it all” is often encouraged and celebrated over the slower rhythms of enjoying the moment and others. So worth it though. I think of the glimpses we see in Scripture of how Jesus lived so relationally and can guess there were many who enjoyed an unhurried moment with Him. Some day we’ll have that with Him face to face, but in the meantime we can be do it with others as He would.

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