I have not done any research, but I have an old-fashioned hunch that one of the most repeated phrases in all of history is “Stop running in the house!”
For centuries, it has been repeated by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters and even house guests. A child will come flying around the corner at breakneck speed, not paying attention to his or her surroundings, and we holler, “Stop running in the house!”
It is the same speed from the championship soccer game or the end-of-the-year races at field day. It is a have your shoelaces tied tightly with a sense of urgency type of speed! I remember hearing those words said to me growing up, and I have said them myself.
We have tried saying them in different ways to make them more effective, so they do not escape into the wind, as our children create a whirlwind around us.
We have emphasized different words. Do not run in the house! Do not run in the house! Do not run in the house! No matter how we say it, the usefulness of those words never exceeds about a 20-percent success rate.
In the history of the world, it has never been very effective, but I guess, we should not be too surprised. For even those of us who no longer run through the house, we can end up living that way.
It is difficult for us to slow down, embracing the quiet moments, where nothing is said or done. We cannot step away, sit down, turn off the phone or stay in the present. Our minds run away from us. Our hearts fail to notice the needs in front of us. We struggle to discern between the urgent and the indispensable.
We resist boredom, but boredom is just another word for opportunity. Boredom carries such negative energy, but we need time that is unscheduled. We should not label it boredom!
We need time for daydreaming, reflection, creativity and prayer. Many times, these are the doorways through which we brush up against God’s presence.
As the academic year begins with our children running through the house, getting ready for school; college students running from one class to another across campus; or as we run from one task to the next, let us pause and listen. Let us embrace the present, so we do not run from it!
We can make room for the unscheduled opportunity, which might turn out to be quite meaningful, or even sacred. We might discover again the goodness of God in the world around us or see an opportunity to help a neighbor along the way!
Every time we say, “Stop running in the house,” let it remind us to slow down as well.
Dr. Tripp Martin has been the pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church since 2013. Prior to living in Auburn, he served churches in Georgia and Mississippi.