The Lost Art of the Slow Build

I love great novels. One of my favorite’s is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not only does the book capture the many romantic traits of the jazz age, but it is a classic story about love, jealousy, money and a dream. I won’t go into the story in case you haven’t read it…

The thing about a great novel is that it is masterfully written with all of the details carefully crafted to fit together and build into a glorious crescendo, the point in the story where all the tension breaks loose and it’s all out in the open. This is the part of the story that makes all of the work of the preceding pages seem like nothing at all. It’s the payoff, the winning lottery ticket, the feast at the end of the famine. It’s the climax of the symphony where all the instruments come together in that melody they have only hinted at for so long.

I think that in large part our culture has lost the appreciation for the slow build. We live in a time of microwave ovens, fast food, and, when we watch TV, changes in most camera shots every three to six seconds. We have developed a very short attention span.

I’m not sure why we don’t seem to care, but I have two guesses. My first guess is that we are simply impatient. How many times have you heard (or said) “I don’t have time for…”? I don’t know much, but I’ve learned that anyone can make time for anything that’s important to them. “I don’t have time” is often code for “It’s not really that important to me.” My second guess is that we are afraid. We’re afraid that if we entrust ourselves to an author or composer or creator of some experience, that we will get strung along and be disappointed. This may be a legitimate fear but a little discernment should fix that right up. I’m not advocating that anyone waste their time, but I am advocating that we slow down long enough to appreciate things that will pay off and make it worth it. Most things that are worth anything take some time to accomplish.

A great example of the slow build is in worship songs. Joel Houston of Hillsong United is a master of the slow build (here is a great example, the song “With Everything“).
In our church services these days we don’t usually have time for ten minute songs, but I love listening to them. The stage is set, the story is told, the tension builds and then breaks out in a passionate cry of celebration. The celebration is greater because the preceding verses have given the appropriate context. The payoff is something rarely achieved by a four minute song.

If there is anything I’ve been reminded of lately, it is that life is too short to rush through, and that the only one in control of the speed is me. I have to make myself slow down and appreciate all the good gifts that I have been given. When I stop and quiet myself long enough to consider what I have and be grateful, the payoff is priceless.

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