The Sacred Slow: A Holy Departure From Fast Faith by Alicia Britt Chole

*Book Review

the sacred slow

“This book may read you,” the back cover says.

“Ours is a hurried age, in which speed is deified and waiting is demonized. Ours is a cluttered age, in which noise is the norm and images constantly clamor for our attention. And in our hurried, cluttered age, faster has become synonymous with better, and experience has become a substitute for intimacy.”

Alicia Britt Chole, in the introduction, says she spent 25 years as a spiritual mentor, then spent a year writing this book, then five years field-testing its content. Obviously, the material is the result of a many years’ experience and intentional research. Here are three certainties Dr. Chole offers in the introduction:

  • Moment-by-moment nearness with God can be a reality for all sincere followers of Jesus regardless of personality or position in life.
  • Though such intimacy with God is attainable, it is not accidental. Sustained nearness is the cultivated fruit of intentionality.
  • Spiritual intentionality connects us with God and with what He sees, celebrates, and weeps over.

I have to admit, at first the size of the book (239 pages), and with a facilitator guide as an additional section in the back of the book, making the book nearly 300 pages, looked like a great deal of heavy reading, and I hesitated to even open it. When I did open it, however, I saw that it was organized into manageable chunks.

The Sacred Slow is divided into “12 movements”, each of which are divided into 5 sections. Each of these is composed of a short but thought-provoking reading, with corresponding guided responses and exercises, resulting in a total of 52 readings.

This book can be described as life coaching, mentoring, or spiritual mentoring. These brief exercises are like having your own spiritual mentor walking with you, guiding you along this spiritual journey. The readings are short, but the responses may require some time, thought, and introspection. At times, the exercises involve asking a few trusted, close, wise, mature friends by asking them specific questions related to the readings. Each “movement” has a list of items needed, which usually includes a Bible, a notebook or journal, access to Bible study tools, highlighters or colored pencils, other simple tools, and if the exercises involve asking for friends’ input, that will also be stated.

These readings and exercises are meant to encourage spiritual growth and closeness to God. It takes time to read, think, and go through these; that is, I think that as the title suggests, going through this book is not meant to be a fast, quick, check-off-the-list type of reading. It isn’t a devotional but is meant to be more practical, as the reader is always asked to respond to the reading in a specific way.

One section under Movement Three, called “How to Water Thorns”, starts off this way:

Watering thorns.
Who would do such a thing?

 The author shares a story of how she would not allow certain native trees to be cut down on her property, despite the advice and admonition from others that the “honey locusts” would produce long thorns and are extremely invasive. One local farmer called them “the devil tree… that makes a cactus look cuddly.” Quite a description! Turns out these trees can grow thorns a foot in length and cause severe, infected painful wounds. Because she refused to cut them down when they were small, they now sprout up annually. She confesses, “I nurtured the thorn trees by omission.” (pp. 53-54)

Likewise, she says, “When we allow misthink to go unchecked, our choice to do nothing waters thorns.”

She continues, “Though God is immutable, our concepts of Him are not. Our God-concepts are always in motion, and all our thoughts—purposefully chosen or passively permitted—affect that formation. Brother Lawrence, known for his intimacy with God, wrote, ‘The foundation of spiritual life, for me, has been a high image of God and a high esteem of God.’

What we choose to think matters, a lot.” (p. 54)

The guided response for this section asks the reader to ask God to reveal any area in which we might be watering thorns in our God-concepts. The exercise goes further: to set a timer to remind yourself at regular intervals during the day to ask ‘What comes into my mind when I think about God right now?’  Write down the responses at the different times of day and compare them, reflect on them. (p. 55)

That is one example of a short reading and a brief exercise; they do vary.

I did not go through this entire book and do the exercises as intended, as I was not able to give it the time needed currently. But what I appreciate is that I feel as if this book would do what a mentor or life coach would do, and I have this resource to pull out and utilize when I am able.

Clearly, what one puts in reading and responding to this book is paramount to the end result. These are not exercises or ideas assembled after just a few months, but after years of intentional research and practice and use, and going through the book and responses also is not meant to be a quick process. Within the pages, there is the purposeful intention of slowing down and deliberately making time to think about God and being attentive to Him.

Readers seeking a closer walk God, readers who feel He is not there, or readers recognizing the need to go deeper in their relationship with God can benefit from going through this book.

With 52 sections, I would think one could go through it in 2 months, with a rigorous nearly daily schedule; it might be a bit rushed given the book’s entire premise, but it is certainly not impossible. I think a more reasonable approach, however, is to spread these readings and responses out over several months. Perhaps going through this during a summer would be a good time, but any time of the year that one can devote would certainly work.

This book is like having a life coach/spiritual mentor come alongside you and guide you through the process of thought-provoking readings and meaningful responses which correlate directly to the readings. I highly recommend this resource for individuals, small group leaders, counselors, etc., anyone who needs a life coach. Also, just by reading these and going through them, I would think mentors and friends can use some of these questions to help others along in their spiritual journeys.

The Sacred Slow: A Holy Departure From Fast Faith by Alicia Britt Chole was published in September 2017 by Thomas Nelson.

*Note: I received a copy of this book from Handlebar Publishing in exchange for an honest review.