Eight words were brashly smeared across the dashboard of the speedboat tied up at Gulf Shores, Alabama. They reflected the flash and flair of its owner whose fast life was often publicized in sporting news across America. In the off-season, the left-handed speedster in the Gulf of Mexico resembled a shiftless, beachcombing drifter with his stubble beard, disheveled hair, and darting eyes rather than one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in Oakland Raider history. If his profession didn't fit his looks, his nickname certainly did. SNAKE. As swift and sneaky in a swamp as he was on the field, Ken Stabler knew one speed . . . full throttle.
So we shouldn't be surprised to read the saucy sign on his dashboard that warned all passengers:
GET IN, SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, HANG ON.
If you planned to ride with Snake Stabler, you had to be ready for one sustained roar during the trip. Somehow there was this itch inside him that wasn't scratched, apart from the scream of an engine and the blur of salt water waves rushing beneath to the tune of 80+ miles per hour. Once you got in and sat down, you had the distinct feeling that shutting up and hanging on would come naturally. Once you've committed yourself to such an accelerated velocity, nothing short of survival really matters.
All that's okay if survival is the only thing that matters. If, however, the things that make life rich and meaningful to us (and those traveling with us) involve more than survival, then speed is an awfully thin wire to hang from. In other words, if we really want some things to count, if we genuinely desire some depth to emerge, some impact to be made, some profound and enduring investment to cast a comforting shadow across another's life (your child, a friend, whomever), it is essential that we slow down . . . at times, stop completely. And think. Now . . . not later. Don't you dare put this off another day!
My oldest son and I were lingering in a local gift shop some time ago. Our eyes fell upon a row of large posters that were framed and stacked together. We laughed at some nutty ones, we studied some serious ones . . . but one stood alone as our favorite. When Curt found it, he said nothing at first, then moments later he whispered quietly, "Wow, Dad, that's good!" It was a picture of a misty morning on a calm lake. In a little skiff were a father and his son looking at the two corks floating at the ends of their fishing lines. The sun was tipping its hat over the mountains in the distance. Stretching across the scene was peace, refreshment, easygoing small talk. Two wistful words beneath the border appropriately released the message
In my younger years I was irritated with the well-worn tune attached to the old-fashioned sounding words of William Longstaff;
Take time to be holy,
Speak oft with thy Lord; . . .
Take time to be holy,
The world rushes on.
Many years, four children, many miles and mistakes later, those words make a lot of sense. They are like the psalmist's plea in Psalm 46:10: