Slowing Down to Catch up to God

Rhythm Over Rushing and Embracing Limits

Rich Villodas

Rich Villodas is the Brooklyn-born lead pastor of New Life Fellowship, a large multiracial church with more than seventy-five countries represented in Elmhurst, Queens. Rich holds a Master of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary. He enjoys reading widely, preaching and writing on contemplative spirituality, justice-related matters, and the art of preaching. He’s been married to Rosie since 2006 and they have two beautiful children, Karis and Nathan. His first book, The Deeply Formed Life, is now available wherever books are sold.


Hello friends, my name is Rich Villodas. I’m the lead pastor of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York City. And it is a great joy to be able to teach a little bit here in this session. 

I want to talk about the three mile-an-hour God. The three mile-an-hour God. 

The late Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama wrote a book entitled “Three Mile an Hour God.” He wrote it because, on average, we humans walk about three miles an hour. And his point was, that’s the pace that God travels as well. 

What Koyama was trying to get at was this notion that if we want to connect with God, we do well to travel at God’s speed. And his point is, God travels three miles an hour. God has all the time in the world. God is not in a rush. And the point for us today is very simple: if we want to catch up to God, we need to slow down our lives. 

Now this sounds foreign to our American culture. It sounds foreign to my New York City culture, because we are often marked by a spirit of hurry. A culture of rushing, an environment of speeding. All affected by this all-consuming pressure to rush. An all consuming pressure to do too much in a very little time. 

We’re never happy with our internet connection, I mean, when we were surfing the web back in the day and we had dial up and then we moved to a broadband modem, it seemed lightning fast, but today, when a page fails to load in .8 seconds, we lose our minds. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that we go back to boats instead of planes, I’m not advocating that we go back to dial up instead of WiFi, but what I am getting at is the pace and culture by which we live in, often makes us miss our connections to God, our connections to ourselves and connections with other people. Because as Dallas Willard said, “The greatest enemy to the spiritual life is hurry.” 

And so the question is, how do we catch up to God? Very simply. By slowing down our lives. 

This is what I want to get at in our text today in Mark 1. 

In Mark 1:35, It says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him and when they found Him, they exclaimed, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else to the nearby villages, so I can preach there also. This is why I have come.’ And so He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues, and driving out demons.” 

In our text where we pick up, Jesus is already in great demand because of His healing ministry. Jesus is showcasing His power and His authority to heal people. To cast out demons. To bring the kingdom of God. 

And because of that, people came from everywhere to see Him. I imagine the scene around Jesus kind of like Black Friday at Target or at Walmart – people are going crazy to push into Him, get their deal, whatever it might be. They’re coming from everywhere to get a piece of Jesus. 

And so while there is all this crazy activity around, the Bible says that Jesus pulls away to a solitary place and that’s the first thing I want you to see. Jesus’s life is rooted in rhythm over rushing. 

Rhythm over rushing. Over and over in the gospels, we see that the writers make a point of describing occasions when Jesus takes a break from all claims on His time and energy. Jesus was absolutely intentional about remaining present to the Father in Heaven. And so He took time to get away and pray. 

Now there were sick people who needed healing, still people who were hungry, who needed to be fed, still people who wanted to hear a word of comfort or inspiration. But over and over again, Jesus knew that He could not continue to meet those needs without being also very intentional about having a sustainable rhythm. And interestingly enough, whenever we see Jesus in action, although His schedule is incredibly full, you never see Him rushing. You never see Him in a frenzy. 

Now I need to tell you that there are absolute times when we need to rush. There are legitimate occasions where we need to hurry up. If someone’s running late for a job interview – by all means – you better run. If a house is burning down, this is no time to be contemplative and meditative, get out of the house. If you’re an EMT worker and someone is injured or in the ambulance truck, this is not time to drive in the slow lane. There are times in which it’s necessary to speed up. Necessary to rush. Necessary to accelerate. There are papers to write, deadlines to meet. 

But if we’re living our lives at that pace, non stop, our lives will not be sustainable. As a matter of fact, our ministries and our leadership will be incredibly superficial. 

And so Jesus, by going away to a solitary place, slows down, so that He could catch up to the Father. His life is marked by rhythms over rushing. But the other thing I want you to see in this passage is that Jesus’s life is sustained by His limits – by the embracing of His limits. And so He doesn’t rush. And then secondly, He embraces His limits. Jesus is so present to Himself that He unapologetically says, “I have limits,” and He embraces that. He doesn’t allow the great needs of everyone else to keep Him from getting to the Father, and He doesn’t allow the great needs to keep Him from embracing what He needs. His limits. 

Reminds me when I travel. We pay when we don’t embrace our limits. I’ve seen many people get to the airport, having to unload their luggage because it was over 50 pounds. And whenever it’s over 50 pounds, depending on whatever airline you travel in, you’re going to have to pay extra. And as I was traveling last year, I thought about this example. Because, our lives are often like that piece of luggage that is filled way too much – going beyond the limits and the reality is we are going to pay. We’re going to pay emotionally, we’re gonna pay physically – whenever we go beyond our limits, we will pay. Our relationships will suffer, our health will suffer, our relationship with God will suffer. 

The reality is you can’t say “yes” to everything. You have limits in time, limits in energy, limits in resources. This is the reality of our lives and so Jesus says “no.” He’s in tune with what the Father wants Him to do. He’s in tune with His own limitations and remarkably, out of this place, deep love emerges. 

I need to say that, because to embrace a life of rhythm over rushing, and to embrace a life of limits doesn’t mean we are inactive. It actually means our love can grow deeper. Rather than embracing our limits, it deepens our connection to the world around us. 

And so the invitation for our day is actually very simple. We are called to two kinds of ministries that we see in Mark 1. 

Henri Nouwen said that if we are going to live a sustainable life, “We must have a ministry of presence, and a ministry of absence.” By a ministry of presence as followers of Jesus, we are called to be available to people. We are called to be spiritually, emotionally, physically available to people. God is present to us and we are called to be present to people. This is leadership. This is pastoring. This is what it means to do campus ministry. We are present to people. 

But if we just have a ministry of presence, we will find ourselves with a lot of problems. The invitation for us is not just to have a ministry of presence – also a ministry of absence. Nouwen calls times of creative withdrawal. It’s not about running away from those you lead, but about creatively withdrawing. 

And that’s the invitation for us today. The invitation for us is to have a ministry of absence, one that’s marked by silence. One that’s marked by solitude. One that’s marked by Sabbath rhythms. One that’s marked by self examination. And in all these things, they prepare us to go deeper in our mission. 

And so today is a time to take inventory. Do you have a life that prioritizes rushing over rhythm? How much are you going beyond your limits? Physical limits – emotional limits – financial limits? Today the invitation is to slow down our lives. Why? Because it’s only when we slow down our lives, that we can catch up to God.


Lord give us the grace to slow down. To embrace our limits. To prioritize rhythms over rushing, so that we can love and lead from a deeper place. We pray these things in Christ’s name, amen. 

Grace and peace to you all.

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