Growing Slow came out earlier this year just as Farmer Bob, our neighbor, was planting his corn. As I write this, the corn is indeed growing slow – and now it’s ten feet tall, swaying in the field behind our house. As I read the book (both personally and in a mom’s study I hosted) I felt as if I had an actual visual of the principles in Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book: principles of cultivating, planting, harvesting, and rest.
What intrigued me about Growing Slow is that I’ve actually read several books similar to it. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, The Rest of God, and Rhythms of Rest, as well as Searching for Certainty all touch on similar themes. But something about Growing Slow resonated with me enough that I was excited to read it with my mom friends, and we’ve had fantastic discussion based off the book’s content.
In this short review we will look at a little of what the book is about and what to expect when you read it. Often times Christian lifestyle books (particularly those written by women) come under a microscope for being too thematic and not biblical enough. As I’ve said before, though, it’s important to consider the writer’s intent and goal in authorship. Were they attempting a theological tome, or were they telling a story, with biblical truth woven in? Is the intended audience new believers or scholars? Consider these things when you read a book.
The first thing I want a new reader to know about this book is that it is topical. Jennifer is a solid believer and there is a lot of Scripture woven through her stories and illustrations, and it is not designed to be a scholarly book. Rather, it’s like a coffee date with a friend; a personal look at Christ’s impact on a real life and real world.
I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. The theological principles are sound, but the book is a like a calming presence as you read. It came to me in a season of extreme stress, and the gentle way Jennifer guides the reader through the seasonal rhythms of the Christian life was very encouraging to me in a hectic time. The women in my mom’s group agree. Growing Slow teaches biblical truths for slowing down, recognizing God’s work in our lives, and pursuing rest without belaboring the readers with extra work.
One of the focus verses of the book is “Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Cor. 3:6-8) This verse recurs throughout the text to underline the theme of God’s quiet, slow work in our hearts. If you’re feeling discontent with your lack of progress or growth, Jennifer encourages us to remember that GOD is the one who grows us, and that much of what He is doing is unseen and uncelebrated. Recognizing the work He is doing encourages us to do the distance.
The book is broken into sections: spring planting, summer cultivating, fall harvesting, and winter resting. Jennifer asks some pointed questions to help the reader process what needs to change in her perception of growth. Do we believe our value is in doing more? Do we think that “busy” is better, that to slow down would be to lose purpose? Do we fill our days because we want to keep up with those around us? Have we seen our “winter” seasons as unproductive when they are in fact an essential time of rest?
The analogy to land, which Jennifer connects to Scripture’s repeated use of agricultural imagery, cements these principles and answers these questions. I had not thought of personal and spiritual growth in terms of the cycles of planting and harvest. I thought even less about the necessity of winter – how the world cannot survive without it. Constant harvest is impossible; land needs rest, and so do we.
If you come to this book understanding that it is designed to be topical, and enjoy it as such, you will get a lot out of it. Don’t ask it to be what it is not.
Because it is designed to be a devotional-type book, it may be a good supplement to your regular bible study routine (I am confident Jennifer did not write it as a replacement for your time in the Word!). I usually read it (and other devotional books) after I finish my study time in Scripture.
I think Jennifer did a great job of presenting a balanced approach to productivity and rest without reverting to the impossible pursuit of “work-life balance”. I particularly loved a section in the middle of the book where she talks about the root cause of our need to achieve. She says this is often based in childhood experiences and asks us to allow God to “reparent” us. To allow Him to speak into the child who wounded by shame, criticism, abuse or neglect. The book has short enough chapters to make time for it daily, but is long enough to really delve into the heart issues behind our busy lives.
I’ve mentioned I chose this as the book for a summer mom’s book club. I could have chosen one of many great books, but somehow this one was on my heart, and it has proven to be exactly what our busy mama hearts needed. The conversation has been fruitful and encouraging and I’ve learned so much from the ladies in my community as we have discussed what it means to “grow slow” into God’s heart for our families. Regardless of your life season, I think this book will meet you and convict you to commit your growth to the Lord instead of achieving it all on your own strength and timeframe.