The Latin festina lente is a classical adage and oxymoron used to describe the military and political acumen of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus.
The phrase means "make haste slowly," and Augustus was so fond of it that he had emblems and seals made to signify it.
The Roman historian Suetonius wrote of Augustus:
He thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness, and, accordingly, favourite aphorisms of his were: "Hasten slowly"; "Better a safe commander than a bold"; and "That which has been done well has been done quickly enough."
Sofia Isabel Kavlin is a poet I've read from time to time, and she recently wrote a poem about relationships and how they go awry when we move too quickly and ignore warning signs that might have helped avoid heartbreak.
She writes of festina lente:
One metaphor that opens things up,
Like a point in time,
Stretching to become a moment,
And the idea of time,
Draining out of your cells.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ (Luke 14:28-30, NIV)
Jesus was trying to teach his followers about the cost of discipleship. His words would not have been all that unfamiliar for first-century ears because they would have all known people who became disciples of one rabbi or another.
One didn't follow a rabbi lightly in those days. It meant dedicating your life to studying, learning, and being with the rabbi as much as possible so you could learn to be like the rabbi.
The thing about Jesus was that he was offering this guidance to regular folks, not just the elite, who qualified to be a student. His call to discipleship was for everyone.
Let's let that sink in. The decision to follow Jesus is for all of us, no matter who we are or our qualifications. And the decision to follow Jesus is one that we should consider carefully each and every day.
We should "make haste slowly" in our journey in the Way of Christ. This means we should be prepared to see the world as Christ sees it. We should consider what it means to live differently, to love God and everyone as Christ did.
And then we should move.
To stay stuck in the considering phase does the world no good, and you and I have been called to be lights in this world. Charging off without being thoughtful in our faith is not an option either. But we still need to move.
May we all find ways to live out a thoughtful, grace-filled, loving faith that is also energetic and life-giving. May we open our hearts and minds to discover what it really means to be Christ's disciples and then follow him as best we can.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.