Latin can be fun. Take the phrase festina lente, literally meaning make haste slowly.
Doing things slowly is my specialty. Unless it’s when I’m pulling onto the freeway, in which case I really want the person ahead of me to use the on-ramp to speed up and accelerate to freeway speed.
Funny, but apparently not every driver on the road sees on-ramps the same way. Perhaps they festina lente no matter what the situation, even when pulling into traffic consisting of several dozen 18-wheelers all barreling along at well over the posted speed limit.
Now that I think about it, I tend to want others not to festina lente, but just to festina if whatever they are doing is getting in the way of whatever I am doing. Earlier this week I was at Costco and the shopper a couple people ahead of me in line was taking more time than usual paying for his items. I craned my neck around the intervening shoppers and saw the man with a small booklet of some sort, and he was scribbling in it with a pen.
“Now why on earth is anyone taking notes in the Costco checkout line?” I wondered. “Can’t he pay for his stuff, move along, and do his writing elsewhere?”
As I stared, it became clear he wasn’t taking notes. He was writing a check. The little notebook was really a checkbook. He was at Costco writing a check. While I waited!
(Now for those of you who are too young to remember checkbooks, they are what people used before credit cards and debit cards. And for those who have no idea what those are, they are what people used before bitcoin.)
So freeway on-ramps and Costco lines, those are two places where festina lente in others doesn’t work for me. Which, now that I think about it, probably means that just about anywhere there’s a line – and I’m not the first person in it, of course – then I would rather people not lente their festina one bit.
It’s all a matter of context, right?
Bible Festina and Bible Lente
The Bible speaks of haste as both good and bad, depending on the context.
Good: “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” (Psalm 119:60.)
Bad: “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” (Proverbs 29:20.)
The Bible also speaks of slowness as being good and bad.
Good: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9.)
Bad: “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin.” (Deuteronomy 23:21.)
And here’s a passage that counsels both haste and slowness at the same time:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20.)
So I’ll try to festina lente for Jesus and the people he’s put in my life.
Even if it’s in a checkout line or on the freeway.